(AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
President Barack Obama on Friday scrubbed a plan to revise ozone regulations adopted in 2008, yielding to bitterly protesting businesses and congressional Republicans who complained the rule would kill jobs in America's ailing economy.
Local economic development officials feared a lower ozone standard will result in some Southeast Missouri counties being designated "nonattainment" zones where new or expanding businesses will face emissions restrictions. The smog standard now is to be revised until 2013.
"The Air Quality Committee has consistently been opposed to the whole idea of "reconsideration," said David Grimes, deputy director of the Southeast Missouri Regional Planning and Economic Development Commission. Grimes, who heads the commission's air quality committee, said he is pleased with the president's decision.
"If nothing else, local businesspersons can now make decisions based on known rules," he said.
The Air Quality Committee, and Grimes himself, is not opposed to clean air standards or the enforcement of them, he said, but they did question these proposed standards and this review process.
The regulation would have reduced concentrations of ground-level ozone, the main ingredient in smog, a powerful lung irritant that can cause asthma and other lung ailments. Smog is created when emissions from cars, power and chemical plants, refineries and other factories mix in sunlight and heat.
"It is virtually certain that the costs to achieve these levels would have been prohibitive, and projects that were being considered would have been abandoned," Grimes said. "In today's economic climate, with unemployment at the levels it is, it simply did not make sense to add costs to businesses."
The White House has been under pressure from GOP lawmakers and major industries, which have slammed the stricter standard as an unnecessary jobs killer. The Environmental Protection Agency, whose scientific advisers favored the tighter limits, had predicted the proposed change would cost up to $90 billion a year, making it one of the most expensive environmental regulations ever imposed in the U.S.
However, the Clean Air Act bars the EPA from considering the costs of complying when setting public health standards.
Obama said his decision was made in part to reduce regulatory burdens and uncertainty at a time of rampant questions about the strength of the U.S. economy.
Southeast Missourian reporter Melissa Miller contributed to this report.