President Barack Obama on Friday scrapped his administration's controversial plans to tighten smog rules, bowing to the demands of congressional Republicans and some business leaders.
Obama overruled the Environmental Protection Agency -- and the unanimous opinion of its independent panel of scientific advisers -- and directed Administrator Lisa Jackson to withdraw the proposed regulation to reduce concentrations of ground-level ozone, smog's main ingredient.
The decision rests in part on reducing regulatory burdens and uncertainty for businesses at a time of rampant uncertainty about an unsteady economy.
Michiganders were key in the fight against the proposed new standards. President Obama on Friday scrapped his administration's plans to tighten smog rules, bowing to the demands of congressional Republicans and some business leaders.
Obama had initially set out to strengthen a weaker standard set by former President George W. Bush. Major industry groups had lobbied hard for the White House to abandon the smog regulation, and they applauded Friday's decision.
"EPA's proposal would have prevented the very job creation that President Obama has identified as his top priority."
The Obama administration is abandoning its plan to immediately tighten air-quality rules nationwide to reduce emissions of smog-causing chemicals after an intense lobbying campaign by industry, which said the new rule would cost billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs, officials said Friday.
The White House announcement that it was overruling the Environmental Protection Agency's plan to adopt a stricter standard for ground-level ozone came just hours after another dismal jobs reports and in the midst of an intensifying political debate over the impact of federal regulations on job creation.
The EPA, following the recommendation of its scientific advisers, had proposed lowering the so-called ozone standard from that set by the Bush administration to a new stricter standard that would have thrown hundreds of American counties out of compliance with the Clean Air Act. The administration will follow a more lenient Bush administration standard set in 2008 until a scheduled reconsideration of acceptable pollution limits in 2013.
Environmentalists vowed to legally challenge that standard, calling it too weak to protect public health.
In a letter to Lisa P. Jackson, the EPA administrator, the head of the White House office of regulatory affairs, Cass Sunstein, said that the president was rejecting her proposal to tighten the standard.
Sunstein said that changing the rule now would create uncertainty for business and local government. Environmental advocates expressed dismay at the decision.
The issue had become a flash point between the administration and Republicans in Congress, who held up the proposed ozone rule as a test of the White Houses commitment to regulatory reform and job creation. Business Roundtable chairman John Engler said the rule should be reconsidered in 2013, regardless of who is president. The ozone rule, he said in a memo to Republican members, was one of the most onerous of the administration's proposed rules.
The current standard for ozone is 75 parts per billion, set by the Bush administration in 2008 over the objections of EPA scientists, who said that a standard between 60 ppb and 70 ppb was needed to protect public health.