House votes to delay ozone rule

House votes to delay ozone rule
© Getty Images

The House on Wednesday passed legislation to block a major Obama administration rule on ozone pollution despite a veto threat from the White House.

The bill, from Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas), would delay the implementation of the ozone standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency in October. It passed 234-177, with seven Democratic votes.

ADVERTISEMENT

It would also slow down the review schedule for EPA air pollutant rules and give regulators the chance to consider cost — not just public health impacts — when reviewing those rules.

Republicans say the bill is necessary to prevent local governments from falling into “nonattainment,” a designation that they were unable to reduce ozone levels below those set by the EPA.

Such a designation will endanger jobs, they say, as would the steps necessary for businesses to reduce their pollution fast enough to bring down ozone levels.

“Jobs, the economy and public health all are very critical priorities for the American people and it is possible, in fact, to pursue policies that simultaneously protect all three of them,” said Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.).

The EPA in October tightened the acceptable amount of surface-level ozone from 75 parts per billion to 70 parts per billion, a move opposed by businesses and states who say they are still struggling to adopt to the old standards.

Business groups like the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have endorsed Olson’s bill. But environmental and public health groups have opposed the bill and backed the new regulations, with many even calling for stricter levels. 

The White House on Tuesday said Obama would likely veto the bill if it reaches his desk, saying it “would result in people living in areas with unhealthy ozone levels for at least an additional 10 years.”

House Democrats mostly opposed the bill as well, saying it undermines the Clean Air Act. 

“These changes are radical revisions intended to roll back the progress we have made in public health,” said Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), the top Democrat on the Energy Committee.

“I ask my colleagues to reject the choice between jobs and clean air. The fact is we can have both.”

But Republicans said those concerns are overblown. 

“This bipartisan bill is not about fundamentally changing the Clean Air Act,” Olson said. “It’s about listening to state regulators who actually have to make EPA’s rules work for the people.”