White House May Not Defend Obama’s Stricter Smog Standards
Former President Obama was an open supporter of protecting the environment. During his term, the Environmental Protection Agency instated a smog rule in an effort to regulate and decrease the amount of pollution in the air.
However, the Trump administration is not as open about its stance on this environmental concern. The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia granted a request to postpone oral arguments in a lawsuit about the rule. This allows the EPA to revisit and reconsider the rule.
The Obama administration had been defending the rule in court, and it is not clear whether the Trump administration will do the same.
What Is Smog?
Smog is a result of ozone pollution that comes from the burning of fossil fuels. It is formed from nitrogen oxide and volatile organic compounds and leads to ground-level pollution.
In 2015, the EPA reviewed research that showed a link between smog exposure and adverse health effects, such as asthma and other respiratory problems, especially in children and elderly. These findings led to the Obama-era rule that aimed to cut back on smog and air pollution.
The current rule that was passed by the Obama administration was put in place in 2015. It regulates ozone, a main component of smog. The limit was set at 70 parts per billion. This cut back from the previous standards of 75 parts per billion.
This rule was a result of compromise. Environmental advocates wanted the standard to be 65 parts per billion while the manufacturing industry argued to keep it at 75 parts per billion. Thus, the EPA set the standard at 70 parts per billion.
As it stands now, this rule would have to be implemented everywhere by 2025. The EPA estimates that by 2025, if implemented, this new standard will prevent 230,000 asthma attacks in children and produce financial benefits of up to $6 billion a year. If states are not in compliance with the rule, the federal government can withhold certain funds.
In 2015, some business and energy groups sued the EPA to have the rule overturned. Up until this point, the Obama administration was defending the rule in court.
Now, EPA officials under the Trump administration have asked for more time to review the rule before going to court. They didn’t make it clear whether they were leaning toward changing the rule or defending it as is. The EPA simply said that it wants to closely review the rule.
Scott Pruitt, EPA administrator, has said that the EPA will be going back to basics, meaning the agency will look at policies and rules by evaluating the costs versus the benefits. He hopes this will make economic growth a priority while also keeping the environment sustainable. He also started performing regulatory audits in accordance with an executive order signed by President Trump earlier this month.
The court is requiring the EPA to give updates regarding its progress on the review every 90 days.
Also under review right now by the EPA is the Clean Power Plan, an initiative aiming to cut power plant emissions by 32 percent by 2030. The EPA is legally obligated to regulate carbon emissions, so if this plan is repealed, it is unclear how the EPA will meet its legal duty.
Earlier this month, senators sent a letter to the White House asking for more information about how the EPA plans to address carbon pollution in the event the Clean Power Plan is eliminated.
It is unknown exactly how President Trump and his administration feels about this rule specifically. However, Trump has recently repealed many Obama-era rules and regulations, especially ones that concern the environment. This rule has not been specifically mentioned yet by the administration. All eyes are on the White House as it considers these rules that affect the environment all Americans live and survive in.