UPDATE 4-Obama backtracks on smog plan, bows to big business

Fri Sep 2, 2011 3:37pm EDT

Related Topics

 * U.S. EPA to drop major anti-smog initiative
 * Republicans, business cheer Obama's move
 * Environmental groups protest loss of key initiative
 (Adds industry reaction, background)
 By Christopher Doering
 WASHINGTON, Sept 2 (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama
put a stop on Friday to new rules that would limit smog
pollution, unexpectedly reversing course on a key policy
measure after businesses argued it would kill jobs and cost
them billions of dollars.
 Obama said the decision to withdraw a clean-air initiative
by the Environmental Protection Agency was part of an effort to
reduce regulatory burdens for business.
 The EPA has become a lightning-rod for critics of
government regulation and a hot-button issue for Republicans in
the runup to the 2012 presidential campaign.
 The move will be seen as another slap in the face for
Obama's supporters on the left, a diverse group already
concerned the administration has given in too quickly to big
business and Republican pressure on debt-reduction and other
 "The Obama administration is caving to big polluters at the
expense of protecting the air we breathe. This is a huge win
for corporate polluters and a huge loss for public health,"
said Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation
US regulators delay smog rule for fourth time [ID:nN1E76P1UA]
Obama's smog backdown won't help US economy [ID:nN1E78117H]
US job growth stalls, fuels recession fears  [ID:nOAT004865]
 Business groups and Republicans said the White House was
making the right decision as the country's economy continued to
 Opponents have argued the tougher regulations would cost
thousands of jobs and purge billions of dollars from the bottom
line of corporate America.
 "The president took a step today that highlights the
devastating impact on jobs that has been created by this
administration's regulatory overreach," said Mitch McConnell,
the Senate's top Republican.
 "This action alone will prevent more job losses than any
speech the president has given."
 Obama's announcement followed grim data on Friday that
showed U.S. employment growth ground to a halt in August, with
the jobless rate stuck at 9.1 percent.
 The EPA, under pressure from business and Republican
lawmakers, delayed several times issuing the new rule that
would limit smog pollution from power plants and factories.
 Democrats in Congress called the White House's decision
disappointing, and urged the administration to move
aggressively on other clean-air challenges.
 "I am disappointed that the president chose to further
delay important clean-air protections that would have helped to
prevent respiratory and cardiac disease in thousands of
Americans," said Ed Markey, the top Democrat on the House
Natural Resources Committee.
 EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, supported by a broad range
of environmental groups, has said the ozone rules would save as
much as $100 billion in health costs, and help prevent as many
as 12,000 premature deaths from heart and lung complications.
 Jackson said in a statement the EPA would revisit the ozone
standard, in compliance with the Clean Air Act, but she shied
away from commenting on the White House's decision.
 Environmentalists are concerned Obama is backing away from
promises to protect the environment. They are concerned the
administration seems poised to approve the huge Keystone
pipeline to import more oil from the Canadian tar sands,
potentially boosting greenhouse gas emissions.
 In a call with reporters, White House officials defended
the administration's environmental record, saying it would
"vigorously oppose" efforts to weaken the EPA's authority or
regress on progress.
 "This is not a product of industry pressure. This is a
judgment of the merits," a White House official said.
 The initial standards, proposed near the start of last
year, would limit ground-level ozone, or smog. The proposal was
stronger than standards set by the Bush administration in 2008,
which environmentalists blasted as less aggressive than
government scientists had recommended.
 Under the rule, factories and oil, natural gas and power
generators would be forced to cut emissions of nitrogen oxides
and other chemicals called volatile organic compounds. Smog
forms when those chemicals react with sunlight.
 Dow Chemical (DOW.N) has said the rule could cost as much
as $90 billion. Several companies including Dow have urged the
administration to delay the rule until 2013.
 Melissa McHenry, a spokeswoman with American Electric Power
(AEP.N), said she hoped Friday's announcement would bode well
for other regulations affecting coal power plants that are
under consideration by the EPA.
 "It's good to see the administration recognizing the need
to balance environmental rules with the potential impact on
consumers and jobs," McHenry said.
 "We would hope that same consideration should be given to
other rules that the EPA is moving forward with," she said.
 (Additional reporting by Eileen O'Grady)
 (Editing by Russell Blinch, Dale Hudson and Jim Marshall)

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Comments (8)
smithjim wrote:
Republicans claim another victory in their war against the environment.

Sep 02, 2011 2:13pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
doggone wrote:
Who do I vote for now, the republicans who with joy in their heart, support efforts to give my kids lung disease, or Obama who does it with some reluctance? Hm tough choice. I do feel better that we will be more prosperous at some point in the future, although walking on the graves of our children makes me feel just a little queasy.

Sep 02, 2011 2:17pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Obama caves is becoming a all too frequent occurrence. The thing is the alternative from the GOP will likely be so horrible a candidate that he will win re-election in a landslide.

Sep 02, 2011 2:19pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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