The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) won’t repeal or revise Obama-era ground-level ozone regulations “at this time,” according to court filings, signaling a retreat on one of President Donald Trump’s campaign promises.
Justice Department attorneys told a federal court Wednesday that EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler would discontinue efforts to repeal ozone, or smog, regulations imposed in 2015 by the Obama administration. Conservative groups were dismayed with EPA’s retreat from a regulatory battle they’ve been waging for years.
“This is very disturbing because it will affect manufacturing, energy production and its costs, and jobs for Americans,” Daniel Kish, a distinguished senior fellow at the Institute for Energy Research, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
The Trump administration will now defend Obama-era ozone regulations in court against a coalition of states and industries suing to have them overturned. The recent court filings were part of this case, which former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was party to while Oklahoma’s attorney general.
“While EPA officials in the current administration may have supported making different judgments about the significance of background concentrations of ozone and how to judge what standards are requisite to protect public health and welfare, the agency at this time does not intend to revisit the 2015 rule,” government attorneys wrote in their court filing.
However, a source with knowledge of EPA’s decision told TheDCNF the agency is looking forward to the next ozone review as an opportunity to address concerns about the rule. (RELATED: EPA Reverses Course, Will Now Enforce Obama-Era Regulations On Used Trucks)
By focusing the future, the source said, EPA hopes to get a new ozone standard done by 2020 complete with reforms to the process, including more consideration for naturally-occurring ozone and pollution blown in from other countries that affects state compliance.
The year 2020 is also an election year, meaning it could be strategically timed to bolster Trump’s re-election effort. Former President Barack Obama intentionally delayed ozone regulations until after the 2012 election to not jeopardize his re-election, The New York Times reported in 2011.
Trump singled out the 2015 ozone standards as one of four major EPA regulations that would be eliminated, including the Clean Power Plan, Waters of the U.S. rule and issues with the Renewable Fuel Standard.
The Obama administration lowered the national ozone standard in 2015 from 75 to 70 parts per billion, arguing it would save lives and improve public health. Those claims aside, states and industry groups quickly sued, arguing such standards could be the most expensive clean air regulations ever.
“This is a very costly regulation, and runs against the grain of the regulatory rollbacks that have enabled the incredible economic growth under the Trump Administration,” Kish said.
The Trump campaign listed repealing ozone regulations as part of his plan to create 25 million new jobs, according to an online campaign fact sheet.
“The EPA’s stricter standard for ground-level ozone would add $1.4 billion to annual emissions compliance costs (excluding $800 million for California alone),” reads the fact sheet. “The new ozone standard will push hundreds of communities out of compliance, and force states to devise plans to limit industrial activity and transportation projects, as well as replace existing emissions control equipment with more advanced (and costly) emissions equipment.”
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