Obama Withdraws $90 Billion Draft Clean Air Regulation Due To Cost

Endesa power plant

President Barack Obama announced Friday that he was directing the EPA to withdraw a draft regulation that would tighten air quality standards for Ozone due to concerns about costs.

In a letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner Tuesday, Obama revealed that the rule under consideration by the Environmental Protection Agency could cost up to $90 billion to implement.

Obama said that while he supports the regulation, it will be updated again in 2013, adding, “ultimately, I did not support asking state and local governments to begin implementing a new standard that will soon be reconsidered.”

The proposed regulation, “Reconsideration of the 2008 Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standard” would lower the allowable concentration of ozone from 0.075 parts-per-million to between 0.060 and 0.070 ppm. According to the EPA, the new standards are required to increase protection for children and “at-risk” populations against respiratory and cardiovascular diseases related to exposure to ozone in the air.

Obama said the primary cost estimate of implementation is between $19 billion and $90 billion.

The EPA says most ozone comes from three categories of sources — vehicle engines, industrial processes, and electrical power production. The rule would tighten emissions standards on all three categories — which would require technological changes, that critics say would cost jobs.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor called it “possibly the most harmful of all the currently anticipated Obama Administration regulations,” in a memo to House Republicans Monday, adding he would seek to repeal the legislation this Winter. Cantor said estimates put the cost of the rule at “$1 trillion or more over a decade and millions of jobs.”

The Manufacturers Alliance, a lobbying group for industry, put the cost of meeting the regulation at $1.013 trillion and 7.3 million jobs between 2020 and 2030 — numbers the Obama administration strongly contests.

Regardless, the rule would be among the costliest in recent memory — and has brought a spotlight to other Obama administration regulations.

In a statement, Speaker of the House John Boehner responded to Obama’s letter saying “we know from the Administration’s own disclosures that there are 212 other regulatory actions in the works, each with an estimated cost to our economy of more than $100 million.” Adding that “at a time like this, with our economy struggling to create jobs, it’s misguided for the federal government to be imposing so many new rules with such enormous costs, even when some of those rules may be well-intentioned.” 

Read Obama’s full statement below:

Over the last two and half years, my administration, under the leadership of EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, has taken some of the strongest actions since the enactment of the Clean Air Act four decades ago to protect our environment and the health of our families from air pollution. From reducing mercury and other toxic air pollution from outdated power plants to doubling the fuel efficiency of our cars and trucks, the historic steps we’ve taken will save tens of thousands of lives each year, remove over a billion tons of pollution from our air, and produce hundreds of billions of dollars in benefits for the American people. 

At the same time, 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. 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. 

I want to be clear: my commitment and the commitment of my administration to protecting public health and the environment is unwavering. I will continue to stand with the hardworking men and women at the EPA as they strive every day to hold polluters accountable and protect our families from harmful pollution.  And my administration will continue to vigorously oppose efforts to weaken EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act or dismantle the progress we have made.