Business chiefs ‘betting on the president’ to kill EPA ozone rule

“It is easy in the abstract to be for something, but now we have a . . . test case if you will, and it is a test case involving the most expensive regulation ever to come down the road,” added Engler, a former Republican governor of Michigan.

His group is also appealing directly to White House chief of staff Bill Daley to overrule EPA’s plans to toughen Bush-era ozone standards.

EPA last year proposed toughening 2008 standards issued under then-President George W. Bush, which were weaker than the agency’s formal science advisers had recommended.

The White House is currently reviewing EPA’s final rules that the agency hopes to issue this summer.

But the business coalition — which also includes chemical manufacturers, refiners, and others — argues that EPA should not consider new ozone standards until the regular five-year review cycle is complete in 2013.

Engler made clear that business officials are putting the spotlight on the White House as they battle the smog rules.

“Either the president is the president of the entire government or not. I think he is. So I am betting on the president,” Engler said.

National Association of Manufacturers CEO Jay Timmons similarly said that the industry group chiefs questioned the smog standards in light of the White House regulatory reform push.

“I think it was obvious to everyone in the room that we had a question as to why, with the president’s executive order, that these rules would be coming up,” he said after the meeting. Top officials with the American Chemistry Council, the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association and other groups attended the meeting.

EPA is rejecting the Bush administration’s 2008 ozone standard of 0.075 parts per million (ppm), and is instead proposing a standard in the range of 0.060-0.070 ppm.

The stricter standards — depending where they are ultimately set — would impose estimated costs in the range of $19 billion to $90 billion annually in 2020, according to EPA.

The estimated health benefits would be in the range of $13 billion to $100 billion per year in 2020, according to the agency, which calls the rules vital to cutting pollution that aggravates respiratory problems like asthma and lung disease, damages vegetation and has other impacts.

Jackson made the case for rewriting the Bush-era rule in a letter this week to Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), who heads a panel of the Environment and Public Works Committee that oversees air-quality policy.

“I decided that reconsideration was the appropriate path based on concerns that the 2008 standards were not legally defensible given the scientific evidence in the record for the rulemaking, the requirements of the Clean Air Act and the recommendation of the [Clean Air Act Scientific Advisory Committee],” Jackson wrote.

Jackson’s letter makes the case for tougher standards, noting that ozone pollution is responsible for tens of thousands of emergency-room visits annually for asthma, bronchial conditions, and other problems.

An EPA spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on the Friday afternoon meeting with industry groups.

Engler said the groups are making the case that the rules will deal a major blow to the economy.

“America’s jobs producers were saying, ‘look, with 9.2 percent unemployment, the last thing the economy needs is the most expensive regulation in history,” he said.

Timmons said the industry groups made the case to Jackson that they want “certainty” — and warned of companies moving operations to other countries.

“We would like to have a partnership with the federal government in encouraging investment in this country and creating jobs in this country rather than having to look at other countries where there more certainty and there is less cost to doing business,” he said.