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EPA Delays Final Ozone Rule

U.S. Enivronmental Protection Agency (EPA) won’t meet its goal of releasing new nationwide standards for ground-level ozone this month, reports the New York Times.

Finishing the standards has taken longer than expected, EPA said in a filing with the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The agency will now move forward “on or around the end of October,” according to the brief (PDF).

EPA had been expected to lower the standard to between 60-70 parts per billion from the present standard of 75 ppb.

Two weeks earlier Sens. Christopher “Kit” Bond and Claire McCaskill complained about the costs of the new rule. Bond and McCaskill were among seven senators who argued in a letter that the new rules would have a negative economic impact and “compound the hardship that many are now facing in these difficult economic times.”

Bond said in an stltoday.com article that “this administration must be realizing that its job-killing, big-government agenda isn’t what the voters want. But I want to ensure these EPA regulations are stopped, not just delayed until a more convenient time after the election.”

Frank O’Donnell, president of advocacy group Clean Air Watch, agreed. The decision to delay the final rule could reflect intense political pressure on the agency, he told stltoday.com in an e-mail.

“This does raise the question of whether political pressure is slowing this decision. I hope not because ozone is a very dangerous pollutant that can make people sick and kill them,” he said.

The American Lung Association, which sued EPA for setting looser standards than recommended by scientists, criticized the agency for missing its self-imposed deadline.

The ozone reconsideration has also drawn heavy criticism from businesses, some of which would be required to reduce emissions of ozone precursors. EPA has estimated that a standard between 60 and 70 ppb would offer health benefits ranging from $13 billion to $100 billion at a cost of between $19 billion and $90 billion,  reports The New York Times.

In Sens. Bond and McCaskill’s letter, sent earlier this month, Sens. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) and George Voinovich (R-Ohio) urged EPA to scrap its reconsideration of the Bush-era ozone rule, according to stltoday.com. The letter, which was also signed by Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and David Vitter (R-La.), raised concerns about the economic impacts of the rule.

“Given the absence of new or different scientific data, EPA should maintain the current ozone standards,” the letter said. “Moving to change the standard again, outside of the Clean Air Act’s normal five-year review process, as local communities are struggling to meet the existing standard, would be unfair and unwise.”

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