Did President Barack Obama sell out to big business last week by abandoning plans for stricter limits on ozone pollution? Announced on 2 September, the decision was greeted with deep suspicion by environmental and health groups, who fear he has caved in to pressure from Republicans and industry to rid the country of what they say are burdensome regulations that could cost jobs.
The upshot is that legal ozone limits will stay at 84 parts of ozone per billion of air, the same as they were in 1997 when they were last upgraded. If the new rules had been adopted, they would have reduced the limit to 60 ppb, a tightening of standards denounced by industry as too costly.
Hardly surprisingly then, that industry was delighted with the news. “We loudly applauded President Obama today for his decision to send the Environmental Protection Agency’s voluntary reconsideration of the 2008 Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards back to EPA with instructions to withdraw the rule,” wrote Ross Eisenberg in a blog for the US Chamber of Commerce.
But environmental groups such as the National Resources Defense Council see it as a sell-out that will cost lives. “The stronger smog standards would have saved up to 4300 lives and as many as 2200 heart attacks every year,” wrote the NRDC’s Frances Beinecke in a blog. “They would have made breathing easier for the 24 million Americans living with asthma, and they would have created up to $37 billion in health benefits annually.”
As noted by The Washington Post, environmentalists could be forgiven for wondering whether Obama is quietly abandoning the green credentials that helped him win office.