EPA’s Jackson Says She Respects Obama’s Decision on Ozone

Lisa Jackson, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said she respects President Barack Obama’s decision to quash proposed new smog limits and said the agency will enforce a 2008 rule.

The EPA said today that states and counties must comply with the ozone standard of 75 parts per billion set by President George W. Bush’s administration, which had been on hold while Obama’s EPA moved to tighten the requirements.

Jackson told a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee today that it’s “no secret” the EPA recommended a stricter cap for ozone, a major component of smog. A scientific advisory panel had said a limit of 60 to 70 parts per billion was necessary to protect public health.

Before Obama’s Sept. 2 decision, Jackson had called the Bush-era standard “not legally defensible.” She said today that she proposed cutting the level to 70 parts per billion.

EPA is currently enforcing a 1997 ozone standard of 84 parts per billion. States and counties violating that rule must develop plans to meet the national standard.

Jackson also criticized an amendment set for a vote in the full House today that makes it harder for the EPA to issue new regulations for mercury and other emissions from power plants.

Aspects of the amendment, proposed by Representative Ed Whitfield, a Kentucky Republican, “would weaken and possibly destroy our ability to ever control those toxic pollutants,” Jackson said.

Republicans said that the EPA has issued a series of rules that will undermine the economy.

‘Oppressive Regulations’

“Time and time again over the last three years we have seen the EPA issue oppressive new regulations that have dramatically raised the costs of doing business in the United States,” Representative Cliff Stearns, the chairman of the oversight subcommittee and a Florida Republican, said at the hearing. “They have driven numerous American companies out of business altogether.”

On one specific issue raised by lawmakers, Jackson said that the EPA isn’t to blame for the woes of Dallas-based Energy Future Holdings Corp. The company’s Luminant unit asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on Sept. 12 to delay a rule capping emissions from power plants that cause pollution in other states.

“Luminant has financial woes that date back far beyond the EPA action” on cross-state pollution, Jackson said today.

In a memo today, the agency said 52 areas nationwide don’t meet the Bush-era standard.

About half of those will see ozone drop to acceptable levels because of additional proposals, such as limits on power-plant pollution, and new fuel standards for vehicles, EPA Assistant Administrator Gina McCarthy wrote in her letter to regional officials.

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