Obama and Ozone: Executing Regulation by Presidential Order

by Rena Steinzor | October 06, 2011

The blog post was co-authored by Rena Steinzor and James Goodwin.

When President Obama issued his new Executive Order 13563 this past January – the one calling on agencies to “look-back” at existing regulations –speculation abounded as to what, if any effect, it would have on agencies’ rulemaking. Setting aside the look-back plan provisions (and the President’s unproductive anti-regulation rhetoric in the Wall Street Journal), the new Order didn’t seem to add much to the 18-year-old Executive Order 12866, save for a few broad platitudes relating to regulatory policy. But the President’s decision to kill EPA’s new ozone standard suggests that the new Order can and will be used to weaken regulations.

Last Thursday, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson told Congress that the Obama Administration would revert to the ozone standard set by the Bush Administration: 75 parts per billion (ppb) in ambient air. Of course, EPA’s expert, blue ribbon scientific advisory board had unanimously recommended that the agency lower this standard to somewhere between 60 and 70 ppb. A 60 ppb standard for ozone would have prevented up to 12,000 premature deaths, 5,300 non-fatal heart attacks, 2,200 cases of chronic bronchitis, 420,000 lost work days, and 2,100,000 missed school days every year. A 70 ppb standard would have prevented up to 4,300 premature deaths, 2,200 non-fatal heart attacks, 880 cases of chronic bronchitis, 170,000 lost work days, and 600,000 missed school days. Under the 75 ppb standard, those benefits will effectively be cut in ...

New EPA Guidance Will Bring Some Needed Scrutiny of Institutional Controls at Toxic Sites, But Still Doesn't Require Checking That People are Actually Protected

by Catherine O'Neill | October 05, 2011
At a growing number of contaminated sites across the nation, “cleanup” means that toxic contaminants are left in place while environmental agencies look to institutional controls (ICs) to limit human contact with these contaminants. Agencies hope that ICs such as deed restrictions or advisory signs will inform people about the continued presence of contaminants at a site and help them steer clear, thus avoiding exposure. Yet agencies have done little to ascertain whether these hopes are well-founded, particularly over the long term. Against ...

ACC Has IRIS on its Hit List

by Matt Shudtz | October 04, 2011
A few weeks ago, Rena Steinzor used this space to highlight some questionable activity happening at EPA’s IRIS office and wonder, “ Is IRIS Next on the Hit List?” The good news last week was that EPA released a number of documents, including the controversial and long-awaited assessment of TCE, giving some reassurance that IRIS staff are still plugging away at their important work (see Jennifer Sass and Daniel Rosenberg over at Switchboard for more on the TCE news). A new ...

As More Sickened From Tainted Cantaloupes, House on Track to Cut Food Safety Budget

by Thomas McGarity | October 04, 2011
Last week, we learned that the nation suffered the deadliest outbreak of foodborne disease in the last decade or more. As Jensen Farms of  Granada, Colorado recalled millions of potentially contaminated “Rocky Road” cantaloupes, scientists at the Centers for Disease Control concluded that 15 deaths and 84 serious illnesses in 19 states were caused by melons containing the rare but exceedingly virulent bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. The disease they contracted, called Listeriosis, has a mortality rate of around 25 percent. Those victims who are ...

Does the Tea Party Cause Unemployment?

by Daniel Farber | October 03, 2011
Cross-posted from Legal Planet. I’ve done several postings about the theory that regulatory uncertainty causes unemployment.  I’m skeptical of the claim as a general matter, but if there’s any validity to it, one of the major causes of regulatory uncertainty is the Tea Party, along with other libertarians and opponents of regulation. It’s not hard to see how the prospect of deregulation could cause businesses to delay investments and hiring: Why build a new power plant today when you may ...

Repealing Oil and Gas Subsidies to Fund the Jobs Bill: Good Policy Any Way You Look at It

by Joseph Tomain | October 03, 2011
This post was written by Member Scholars Kirsten Engel, William Funk, and Joseph Tomain, and Policy Analyst Wayland Radin. The President’s recently announced American Jobs Act would be partially funded by repealing oil and gas subsidies, including subsidies in the forms of tax credits and exemptions. Eliminating these unnecessary and harmful subsidies would be a long overdue step toward sound climate and energy policies. Oil and gas subsidies cost American taxpayers billions of dollars every year, but have long since ceased to ...

Auto Dealers Group Wrong About How EPA Considers Costs in Vehicle Efficiency Standards

by Amy Sinden | September 29, 2011
This post was written by Member Scholar Amy Sinden and Policy Analyst Lena Pons. Last week, the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) sponsored a fly-in lobby day to support an amendment that would strip EPA of the authority to set greenhouse gas emission standards for passenger cars and light trucks for 2017-2025. The amendment, offered earlier this year by Rep. Steve Austria (R-Ohio), would prevent EPA from spending any money to implement the 2017-2025 standards. NADA wants the National Highway Traffic ...

API's Request for Delay on Greenhouse Gas Reg is a True Pitch in the Dirt

by Matthew Freeman | September 28, 2011
Nothing attracts attacks in politics quite like a show of weakness. That’s obviously how energy industry lobbyists read President Obama’s recent retreat on ozone standards. So now that the Administration has demonstrated its willingness – you might even call it eagerness – to cave in on much needed environmental regulation, it’s no surprise that polluting industries are of a mind to press their luck.  How else to explain a request to the Environmental Protection Agency from the American Petroleum Institute – ...

Top Regulatory Opponents Tout Story Claiming EPA Wants to Make 230,000 New Hires; Turns Out Agency Was Arguing Specifically Against It

by Amy Sinden | September 27, 2011
It all started Monday on the Daily Caller. The story claimed that the EPA, in planning regulations on greenhouses gasses, is “asking for taxpayers to shoulder the burden of up to 230,000 new bureaucrats — at a cost of $21 billion — to attempt to implement the rules.” The story spread like wild among many of the usual suspects, like National Review, Red State  and Fox News. And it was promoted by some of the top anti-regulation advocates in Congress: Senator ...

Looking Back at the Ozone Retreat: A Step Back for the Obama Administration on Science Integrity

by James Goodwin | September 27, 2011
Soon after assuming office in January 2009, President Obama promised that, in contrast to George W. Bush, science and law would be the two primary guiding stars for regulatory decision-making during his administration. From that perspective then, the finalized version of the EPA’s ozone standard should have been a no-brainer. After all, the standard was intended to replace the 2008 one issued in the dying days of the Bush Administration, which EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has slammed as legally and scientifically indefensible. The ...

Robert Adler Op-ed in Salt Lake Tribune Points to Utahn's Desires for Clean Environment and Healthy Economy

by Ben Somberg | September 26, 2011
Member Scholar Robert Adler had an op-ed in the Salt Lake Tribune over the weekend noting a new survey in Utah showing state residents valuing both a sound economy and a healthy environment as fundamental, co-equal requirements of their quality of life. The survey was part of a "Quality of Life Index" from the Utah Foundation, a group supported by many top businesses in the state. Adler explained the bigger picture: Fortunately, clean air and water are not incompatible with ...

Big Win for Children's Health in Second Circuit Risk Assessment Decision

by Noah M Sachs | September 26, 2011
In toxics regulation, environmental lawyers face an uphill battle when they challenge a risk assessment performed by a protector agency.  Courts review the agency’s risk assessment under a deferential “arbitrary and capricious” standard, and courts are reluctant to second-guess an agency’s calculation of the risks of a pesticide or other chemicals. So it was a victory for both children’s health and sound science earlier this month when the Natural Resources Defense Council prevailed in its challenge of EPA’s flawed risk ...

The Regulatory Accountability Act: Putting the Screws to Health, Safety and Environmental Regulation

by Sidney Shapiro | September 23, 2011
Rep. John Dingell (D-Michigan) once remarked, “I’ll let you write the substance … you let me write the procedure, and I’ll screw you every time.” Legislation introduced yesterday in the Senate by Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), and Susan Collins (R-Maine) and in the House by Reps. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Collin Peterson (D-Minnesota) to amend the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) proves Rep. Dingell knew what he was talking about. The APA is the law that governs the way the ...

The TRAIN Act: A Radical Deregulatory Plan, Even Before the Amendments

by Ben Somberg | September 22, 2011
Today the House is taking up debate on the “TRAIN Act”, a sweeping anti-regulatory bill that would serve to gum up the works at agencies that work to protect our health and the environment. The bill was bad to start with; then it became a true circus, with all sorts of regulation-blocking amendments being tacked on (See NRDC, and NRDC). An amendment offered by Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH) would completely rewrite the Clean Air Act, forcing the EPA to set National ...

Plan EJ 2014: Building a Foundation for Federal Environmental Justice Policy

by Robert Verchick | September 21, 2011
Let’s stipulate: EPA’s withdrawal of a stronger ozone rule was the low point. And for many, a betrayal, a sedition, the nation’s biggest sell-out since Dylan went electric (or played China, take your pick). Still, Jackson’s EPA has accomplished a great deal. Last week the EPA showcased new policy devoted to one issue with which Jackson has associated herself since day one: environmental justice. The policy is called Plan EJ 2014, the agency’s comprehensive environmental justice strategy, planned to correspond with the ...

David Driesen Op-ed in Post-Standard Discusses Ozone Politics

by Ben Somberg | September 21, 2011
CPR Member Scholar David Driesen has an op-ed in this morning's Syracuse Post-Standard discussing the Administration's punt on the smog standard, arguing it's "unfortunate that President Obama has decided to embrace the Republican narrative about regulatory burdens instead of explaining the true causes of our economic woes." Remembering the role of financial deregulation in our economic crisis, Driesen writes: The lesson is that we need government standards to safeguard the economy, just as we need them to safeguard the environment. ...

Landry Calls Civil Servants the 'Gestapo.' Who Should Apologize?

by Rena Steinzor | September 21, 2011
In a dispiriting reminder that the more things change, the more they remain the same, Rep. Jeff Landry (R-La.) plucked a page from former Rep. Tom Delay’s playbook, denouncing federal civil servants as “the Gestapo” because when he popped into a local office unannounced and without an appointment last week, staff kept him waiting for 20 minutes. When federal deepwater drilling permit chief Michael Bromwich objected to Landry’s appalling rhetoric, the Representative doubled down on idiotic and demanded that Bromwich apologize. Both ...

Sneak Attack Against Regulation of Dangerous Snakes Countered in House of Representatives

by Peter T. Jenkins | September 20, 2011
Guest blogger Peter T. Jenkins is a lawyer and consultant working with the National Environmental Coalition on Invasive Species (NECIS), committed to preventing further harm from invasive, non-native plants and animals. He is Executive Director of the Center for Invasive Species Prevention (CISP). If the federal government cannot regulate huge constrictor snakes that have already invaded twice in Florida, are preying on Endangered Species Act-listed species, can readily invade in other States and have killed more than a dozen people ...

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