President Obama today delayed standards proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency that would have reduced levels of ground-level ozone air pollution and provided stronger public health protections.
In a White House statement, the president recognized the importance of taking action to safeguard the health of Americans, but said his decision also took into account the need to reduce regulatory burdens during difficult economic times.
“With that in mind, and after careful consideration, I have requested that (EPA) Administrator Jackson withdraw the draft Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards at this time,” Obama said. “Work is already underway to update a 2006 review of the science that will result in the reconsideration of the ozone standard in 2013.”
Public health advocates reacted strongly to the president’s decision to put off the long overdue standards, in what has been viewed as a victory for the business community, according to a report by the Washington Post.
“We are extremely disappointed with the delay of these lifesaving standards,” said Alan Baker, interim executive director of APHA, in a news release. “We in the public health community, including EPA’s own scientific advisors, have urged stronger ozone standards to safeguard the health of Americans. We urge the administration to reconsider its decision and strengthen the health protections provided under the Clean Air Act based on the overwhelming scientific evidence.”
In a letter sent to the president just last month, APHA and other leading health organizations urged EPA to adopt the most protective standards under consideration. To press their case, the groups also met with White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley. The organizations said that the rules had been delayed four times already.
“For two years the administration dragged its feet by delaying its decision, unnecessarily putting lives at risk,” said Charles D. Connor, president and CEO of the American Lung Association in a statement. “Its final decision not to enact a more protective ozone health standard is jeopardizing the health of millions of American, which is inexcusable.”
Smog or ground-level ozone is created when emissions from industries, electric utilities, motor vehicle exhaust, gasoline vapors and solvents react in sunlight. Breathing unhealthy levels of ozone can cause adverse health effects such as asthma attacks, increased respiratory illness and decreased lung function, and it can lead to increased hospitalizations and even death.