Braced for months for far-reaching action from the Obama administration, both business and environmental groups were quick to react Wednesday after the Environmental Protection Agency formally announced its plans to set new lower guidelines to cut smog pollution.
Leading business lobbies and energy industry groups called the proposal “damaging,” “destructive” and “unachievable,” while citing President Obama’s own words in 2011 that said new regulations could hurt the economy. But environmental groups applauded the new EPA standards and, in some cases, thought the agency had not gone far enough.
“The EPA’s proposal to lower the ozone standard will have potentially damaging economic consequences for this country,” said Bill Kovacs, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s point man on environmental regulation. The stricter standard, he warned, “translates into restriction on expansion, permitting delays, increased costs to industry and an impact to transportation planning.”
Added National Association of Manufacturers President Jay Timmons, “This new ozone regulation threatens to be the most expensive ever imposed on industry in America, and could jeopardize recent progress in manufacturing by placing massive new costs on manufacturers and closing off counties and states to new business by blocking projects at the permitting stage.”
The new standards are expected to force power plant and factory owners to install new expensive technology in order to clean pollutants that some feel are already being improved, employing a hotly disputed formula on how to balance the costs and benefits of the emissions regulation.
The EPA rules come six years after the current, less onerous standard was put in place by President George W. Bush, and could be the costliest regulations ever, according to the American Petroleum Institute. The energy lobby argued that Mr. Bush’s standard was working.
“Air quality has improved dramatically over the past decades and will continue to improve as EPA and states implement existing standards, which are the most stringent ever,” said API President and CEO Jack Gerard in a statement. “Careful review of the science shows that the current standards already protect public health. Tightening these standards could be the most expensive regulation ever imposed on the American public, with potentially enormous costs to the economy, jobs and consumers.”
However, others argue that the science was on the EPA’s side, and that the Bush-era regulations were too weak.
“We generally support the EPA’s range, especially since they followed very closely the recommendations of their scientific advisers,” said Bill Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies. “They did what the court asked and what the scientists advised.”
Officials at the Sierra Club applauded the EPA’s decision, citing health benefits projected by the American Lung Association from reducing smog levels. The American Public Health Association also welcomed the rule, although it pressed the Obama administration to set the standard at the lowest possible level.