EPA sends ozone regulation for White House review

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent potential changes to the standard for ground-level ozone to the White House Office of Management and Budget onn Wednesday.

The EPA has not said whether it will try to lower the Bush administration’s maximum limit of 75 parts per billion; it could simply reaffirm that standard. The EPA’s staff and its scientific advisers have asked the agency to reduce to 60-70 parts per billion the allowable concentration of ozone, the main component of smog.

The White House was responsible three years ago for stopping the EPA’s attempt to set the level at 70 parts per billion.

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Top officials such as then-White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley and then-head of regulatory efforts Cass Sunstein pushed for President Obama to stop the rule amid industry backlash.

This time around, the National Association of Manufacturers put out a study estimating that a 60-parts-per-billion rule could be the most expensive regulation ever, costing $2.2 trillion just to comply.

The EPA is under a court order to propose a new regulation by December. The White House can take 60 days to review regulations, though it can easily extend the timeframe as well.

Areas with higher pollutant concentrations than allowable levels must take actions to lower them. That could hurt energy-intensive industries that rely on fossil fuels, whose emissions create ozone.