EPA Says It Won’t Issue Ozone Standards by July 29 Deadline

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said it will miss a July 29 deadline to issue tighter ozone standards as President Barack Obama’s administration reviews the regulation opposed by industries.

The White House Office of Management and Budget is leading an interagency examination of the proposed rule, the EPA said today in a statement. The EPA, which said this month it would meet the deadline it set with a federal court, didn’t say when the rules may be issued. The White House will work as “quickly as possible” to complete the review, Meg Reilly, a spokeswoman for the budget office, said in a statement today.

The EPA’s proposed regulations for ground-level ozone, a main ingredient of smog, would tighten those issued under President George W. Bush in 2008. Critics such as Dow Chemical Co., the largest U.S. chemical maker, say the EPA is rushing the process and that the Clean Air Act mandates a reexamination every five years, with the next one in 2013.

The opponents say the changes may cost as much as $90 billion and have urged the Obama administration to delay action. The EPA, which has said the stricter rules are needed to safeguard public health, faced lawsuits challenging the Bush-era rule.

“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,” the EPA said in a statement. The agency said it will “consider costs, jobs and the economy.”

The White House budget office received the proposed rule from the EPA on July 11. Its review typically requires about 90 days “to ensure that all interested agencies have an opportunity to comment,” according to Reilly.

‘Most Expensive’ Rule

Dow, based in Midland, Michigan, said the rule “promises to be the single most expensive regulation ever imposed on the U.S. economy,” according to a letter sent last week by Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Andrew Liveris to Obama’s chief of staff, William Daley.

State and local governments that aren’t in compliance with new ozone rules would have to find ways to lower emissions and might stop issuing new air permits, according to trade groups such as the Washington-based American Petroleum Institute, the largest lobbying group for the oil and gas industry.

Industry groups including the Business Roundtable, which represents top executives at companies such as Fairfield, Connecticut-based General Electric Co., have said the new standards aren’t necessary and will be impossible for most U.S. counties to meet.

Jackson’s Meeting

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson met on July 15 with representatives from the Washington-based Business Roundtable and the API to discuss the proposed ozone limits. API CEO Jack Gerard said in an interview after the meeting that the rules will “impose a severe burden” on the economy.

The EPA has said tighter ozone restrictions will help prevent 12,000 premature deaths and save as much as $100 billion in health costs.

States and environmental groups filed lawsuits challenging the 2008 rules on the grounds that the agency ignored a scientific advisory panel’s recommendations for stricter limits.

In 2009, the court granted the EPA’s request to suspend the legal challenges while the agency reworked the rules. Those cases remain on hold.

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