New EPA guidelines on soot: a political cloud for Obama?
Forced by a federal court to act, the EPA issued new clean air guidelines lowering permissible levels of soot. The move was attacked by Republicans and industry leaders as harming the economy.
Fossil fuel industry leaders and Republicans slammed the Environment Protection Agency Friday, saying its “aggressive regulatory agenda” is harming the US economy after the EPA announced new clean air regulations that lower the permissible levels of soot.Skip to next paragraph
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The proposed tightened regulations, with their mandatory public comment period that follows, could be a political liability for President Obama, who is seeking reelection in November and whose environmental policies are favorite targets of the GOP.
A US District Court ordered the EPA to issue its updated clean air standards after a lawsuit filed by advocacy groups and a coalition of 11 states charged the agency with violating the Clean Air Act by seeking to delay the regularly scheduled update until after the election year. The agency wanted to push the new rules to August 2013.
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The EPA framed the new regulations as a win for public health and for the economy in that millions in medical costs are expected to be saved.
“We will be saving hundreds of thousands of lives,” Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, told reporters Friday.
News of the regulation could create vulnerabilities for Mr. Obama in swing states, where presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney is already telling voters the president’s policies on emissions from coal-fired power plants are too aggressive and have been hurtful to job creation.
Of the states supporting the EPA changes – California, New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington – none are in the Rust Belt, where Mr. Romney will be campaigning this weekend and into next week.
Some Republican lawmakers used the news as an opportunity to criticize the president. In a statement released Friday, Sen. James Inhofe (R) Oklahoma said the president and the EPA don’t “understand the economic pain that Americans are feeling today: Even as we continue to make environmental advancements, the Obama-EPA is persistently going to the extreme.”
Petroleum and coal industries have long opposed making the standard more stringent, saying it will lead to increased costs and be harmful for domestic energy production. Voices from those quarters derided the agency’s decision, framing it as politically motivated.
In a statement, Evan Tracey, senior vice president for communications for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity in Washington characterized the new standard as “another example of how the agency is ignoring the harm its aggressive regulatory agenda is causing to the US economy.”