EPA chief: Bush-era ozone rule not ‘legally defensible’

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 and other bronchial conditions, not to mention hundreds of millions of dollars in reduced crop production, lost school days and other problems.

Groups including the American Petroleum Institute, many Republicans and some conservative Democrats have called on EPA to back off, noting that the agency is only required to review its ozone standards every five years and should wait until that process plays out.

Frank O’Donnell, head of the group Clean Air Watch, said Jackson’s letter is aimed at knocking down attacks on EPA’s plan.

“This is intended to help Carper clarify the record and say it is a bogus argument to say the standard was already dealt with a couple years ago, because it was basically botched, and this current EPA is trying to straighten out that mess,” he said.

Jackson proposed rules that toughened the Bush-era standards in early 2010, but EPA has delayed the final rules, prompting fears among supporters of the new rules that EPA was backing off under pressure.

But the agency is currently planning to complete the ozone rules this summer. EPA sent the rule to the White House several days ago for review.