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Obama withdraws EPA smog standards

US President Barack Obama on Friday requested the withdrawal of national smog standards [press release] proposed by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [official website]. The draft Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards [materials] would have reduced the amount of smog emissions to between 0.060 and 0.070 parts per million (ppm) from the previous 0.075 ppm. The EPA estimates that these changes would help reduce the effects of climate change and improve public health, saving the US between $13 billion and $100 billion in health care costs. The stricter smog standards, proposed by the EPA in January 2010 [JURIST report], would have replaced the Bush administration's broader 2008 national smog regulations [text], complying with scientific recommendations. In his statement, Obama recognized recent efforts to improve environmental protection, but emphasized the need to trim down regulations in light of the economic downturn:

Over the last two and half years, my administration, under the leadership of EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, has taken some of the strongest actions since the enactment of the Clean Air Act four decades ago to protect our environment and the health of our families from air pollution. From reducing mercury and other toxic air pollution from outdated power plants to doubling the fuel efficiency of our cars and trucks, the historic steps we've taken will save tens of thousands of lives each year, remove over a billion tons of pollution from our air, and produce hundreds of billions of dollars in benefits for the American people. At the same time, I have continued to underscore the importance of reducing regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty, particularly as our economy continues to recover.
The president also indicated that studies are currently being conducted in anticipation of a 2013 review of the smog standards.

The EPA announced in September 2009 that it would reconsider [JURIST report] national smog standards to ensure accuracy and public health. The decision to review the smog standards came in response to a legal challenge [JURIST report] filed by Earthjustice [advocacy website] on behalf of several environmental organizations. The suit alleged that the EPA ignored the input of top scientists before issuing its smog regulations [JURIST report] in March 2008. The EPA has the power to monitor ozone levels under the Clean Air Act [text, PDF]. Ground-level ozone, referred to as smog, has been linked to respiratory health issues and adverse effects on the environment.

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