EPA delays Obama air pollution rule by one year

EPA delays Obama air pollution rule by one year
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The Trump administration is putting a one-year delay on implementation of a major Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) air pollution rule from the Obama administration.

The EPA announced the delay in the ozone pollution rule enforcement late Tuesday, saying that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt had notified state governors.

Under the new schedule, the EPA will make final decisions on which areas are out of compliance with the ozone rule by October 2018.

Determinations on so-called nonattainment areas were going to be proposed this month and finalized this October under the original plan.

The letters to governors did not specify if other deadlines in the rule — including when states must submit plans to reduce ozone levels in areas that need reductions — would also be delayed.

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“States have made tremendous progress and significant investment cleaning up the air. We will continue to work with states to ensure they are on a path to compliance,” Pruitt said in a statement.

“We are committed to working with states and local officials to effectively implement the ozone standard in a manner that is supportive of air quality improvement efforts without interfering with local decisions or impeding economic growth,” he said.

The EPA’s statement and letter highlighted the downsides of the regulation, including “increased regulatory burdens, restrictions on infrastructure investment, and increased costs to businesses,” but did not mention the public health benefits that former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaAll five living former presidents to attend hurricane relief concert Overnight Health Care: Schumer calls for tying ObamaCare fix to children's health insurance | Puerto Rico's water woes worsen | Dems plead for nursing home residents' right to sue Interior moves to delay Obama’s methane leak rule MORE’s EPA had expected from its implementation.

Pruitt’s letter says his action relies on a provision in the Clean Air Act that allows delaying standards for up to a year if the agency has “insufficient information” to make compliance decisions.

It does not detail the information shortfalls.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R), one of the leaders in a lawsuit challenging the rule, applauded Pruitt’s action.

“I am grateful for the leadership of EPA Administrator Pruitt in courageously pausing the costly and ineffective ozone rule, and I’m hopeful that the one year delay will provide time for the EPA to review the detrimental effects the ozone rule will have on the Texas economy,” he said in a statement.

Ozone is a component of smog and a byproduct of various pollutants produced by burning fossil fuels, but some of it also is produced naturally. The gas causes various respiratory ailments such as asthma attacks.

The 2015 regulation set the allowable ozone level in air at 70 parts per billion, down from the 75 parts per billion set in 2008.

The Obama EPA predicted the rule would result in billions of dollars in economic benefits, mainly through improved public health.

But the rule attracted significant controversy from Republicans and industries that rely on fossil fuels. The industry said the rule would cost more than $1 trillion and questioned its health benefits.

In response to ongoing litigation against the rule by Republican states and industry, the EPA said in April that it would review the rule for potential changes or repeal.

Pruitt said in his letter to governors that he is still undertaking that review, and more changes may come. He also set up a task force to consider changes to the rule, which Congress mandated in its recent spending bill.

Pruitt was on the opposite side of the lawsuit against the rule when he was Oklahoma’s attorney general, up until taking the EPA job in February.