Plans by the Environmental Protection Agency to tighten air quality standards earlier than scheduled have been sidelined by President Barack Obama. The President’s action drew praise from Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama Friday.
Sessions and 33 other U.S. Senators, of both parties, signed a letter to the President asking he halt the EPA’s plan to accelerate plans to tighten air quality standards laid out in 2008.
Since the 1970’s, the EPA has been imposing tighter standards for ozone levels from 125 parts per billion to 84 parts per billion in the 1990’s. It has been a deliberate effort to require cleaner air, while giving communities and businesses a chance to implement the changes needed to make it happen. If regions didn’t meet the standards, the EPA imposed restrictions on development.
The current ground-level ozone standard is 75 parts per billion imposed in 2008 and to be reviewed for change five years later. The EPA decided to change the standard early to between 60 parts per billion and 70 parts per billion.
Sessions sits on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and says, “The EPA proposal threatened to be the most expensive new regulation ever adopted by EPA.” He said he had serious concerns with the new standards and how they could cost additional billions of dollars per year to implement “and pose a serious threat to our economy.”
The President agreed, “I have requested that Administrator [Lisa] 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.”
Sessions and the other senators pointed out that at 60 parts per billion, 260 counties, basically all with an air quality monitor, would violate the standard.
In Alabama, environmental groups say lowering the standard to 70 parts per billion would affect mainly the Birmingham and Mobile regions. Dropping it to 65 parts per billion would also impact areas like Montgomery, Decatur, Huntsville and the Phenix City.
“Even EPA’s own estimates suggest that the new standards could add $90 billion per year to the already high operating costs faced by manufacturers, agriculture and other sectors,” the senators wrote in their letter to Obama.
The President says he wanted it clear, “Ultimately, I did not support asking state and local governments to begin implementing a new standard that will soon be reconsidered.” But he added, “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.”