Obama drops smog plan: Is it all about the presidential election?
Environmentalists say President Obama is dropping a plan to set new air-quality standards with one eye on on the presidential election. The administration says it is waiting for more research.
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In a conference call with reporters Friday, White House officials blamed the move on awkward timing. Implementing a rule this year based on what it called "outdated science" made no sense. Work is already underway to update a 2006 review of the science that will result in the reconsideration of the ozone standard in 2013, the officials said.Skip to next paragraph
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Environmentalists say the move and timing look like capitulation based on political weakness, designed to undercut the arguments of conservatives in an election year – at the expense of the environment and public health.
"Its just nonsensical spin," says Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, a Washington environmental advocacy group. "It's literally the same argument that polluters were arguing – put off new regulations to clean up the air until after the next elections."
Denying the White House was caving to critics, administration officials noted major initiatives and environmental gains from tougher enforcement over the past two years, including a proposal to reduce mercury and other toxic air pollutants from outdated power plants and the doubling of fuel efficiency of cars and trucks light trucks.
"There should be no question this administration is committed to protecting public health and the environment," a White House official told reporters. "We continue to vigorously oppose efforts to weaken EPA authority or dismantle significant and historic progress we've made to date."
But even Mr. Obama's supporters in Congress expressed dismay over the moves. Rep. Edward Markey (D) of Massachusetts, an advocate of environmental regulation pronounced the move "disappointing." He fears it could lead to other rollbacks on water and air quality.
And Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) of California, chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said that "protecting air quality based on the science leads to more job growth because it brings so many positive health benefits to our workers."
Although disappointed with the decision to delay action, she said she was "heartened by the President’s commitment to vigorously oppose any efforts to dismantle the Clean Air Act and the progress that we have made.”