Obama administration delays smog rule amid pushback from industry, GOP

The Environmental Protection Agency will not meet its July 29 deadline to issue final rules for tightening ozone standards that were put in place during the George W. Bush administration.

The latest delay comes as major industry groups, many Republicans and some conservative Democrats are pressuring EPA and the White House to scuttle the rules.

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EPA spokesman Brendan Gilfillan said in a statement Tuesday that agency Administrator Lisa Jackson remains “fully committed” to completing the rule, which is under review by the White House Office of Management and Budget.

“Following completion of this final step, EPA will finalize its reconsideration, but will not issue the final rule on July 29th, the date the agency had intended,” he said. “We look forward to finalizing this standard shortly.

“A new ozone standard will be based on the best science and meet the obligation established under the Clean Air Act to protect the health of the American people. In implementing this new standard, EPA will use the long-standing flexibility in the Clean Air Act to consider costs, jobs and the economy,” he added.

But EPA's action did not seem to appease critics of the smog rules.

"Washington needs 2 cut red tape — not just delay it," Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said in a tweet Tuesday afternoon.

EPA’s effort to tighten standards the Bush administration issued in 2008 is drawing heavy pushback from such groups as the Business Roundtable, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and American Petroleum Institute, to name just a few.

The groups say the rules will harm manufacturers and many other industries, killing scores of jobs.

This week 34 senators — 32 Republicans and two Democrats — similarly wrote to EPA arguing that the 2008 rules should not be reconsidered until after the regular five-year review process is complete in 2013.

Business groups also are appealing directly to the White House to scuttle EPA’s upcoming rules.

But EPA Administrator Jackson recently said the Bush-era standards — which are weaker than the agencys science advisers recommended — are not “legally defensible.”

EPA and public health groups also say tightening the standards will yield major health benefits, such as curbing bronchial illness in children and the elderly.

The new rules already have faced delays. Frank O’Donnell, who heads the environmental group Clean Air Watch, criticized the latest delay.

“This is an unfortunate response to political pressure and polluter-inspired disinformation,” he said Tuesday in an email. “The decision is already almost a year late!”

This post was last updated at 12:27 p.m.