Obama Withdraws Environmental Rules, Citing Business Burden

President Obama told the EPA today to withdraw proposed air quality legislation, citing the need to reduce regulatory burdens on businesses as the economy continues to recover. The decision comes after Republicans and business groups lobbied hard against the proposed regulation. However, the White House maintains the move had nothing to do with politics. 

Republicans in the House had made standing in the way of the regulation a top legislative priority and billed it as a cornerstone of their jobs plan, claiming the new standards would burden businesses and hinder job growth. 

In a letter last week, Speaker of the House John Boehner accused the president of being disingenuous on regulatory burdens and asked him to identify pending rules with an economic impact over $1 billion. While Obama later refuted the Speaker’s claim that more than 200 proposed regulations would saddle American businesses with billions in new costs, the White House did provide a list of seven rules with estimated price tags over $1 billion. At the top of that list was the proposed ozone standard that the EPA agreed to withdraw today. 

The regulation would have imposed a stricter ozone standard, thus requiring companies and counties across the country to enact changes in order to continue to comply with the Clean Air act. Now instead the more lenient standards set by the Bush administration in 2008 will remain in place until pollution limits are reconsidered in 2013. 

Today the Speaker’s office took credit for prompting the White House to take action. “This is certainly a good first step, and we’re glad that the White House responded to the Speaker’s letter and recognized the job-killing impact of this particular regulation.  But it is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to stopping Washington Democrats’ agenda of tax hikes, more government ‘stimulus’ spending, and increased regulations – which are all making it harder to create more American jobs,” a Boehner spokesman said. 

White House officials today, however, said that politics had nothing at all to do with the administration’s decision to pull the regulation. 

“I have continued to underscore the importance of reducing regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty, particularly as our economy continues to recover.  With that in mind, and after careful consideration, I have requested that Administrator Jackson withdraw the draft Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards at this time,” President Obama said in a written statement. “Work is already underway to update a 2006 review of the science that will result in the reconsideration of the ozone standard in 2013.  Ultimately, I did not support asking state and local governments to begin implementing a new standard that will soon be reconsidered.” 

Despite today’s decision, the administration continues to tout its commitment to clean air and the environment. 

“The Obama Administration has taken unprecedented steps forward to protect the public health of American families by reducing harmful air pollution.  Taken together, the Administration’s clean air achievements will produce enormous benefits for public health and the environment – while promoting the nation’s continued economic growth and well-being,” Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Heather Zichal wrote in a White House blog today.