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EPA Shrinks From Fight with Republicans

I think I mentioned this a couple days ago, but it’s a significant development, so let me do it again. Basically any movement on fighting pollution, including greenhouse gas emissions, will come from the EPA, over the next two years at least. In such an environment, it’s crucial that the EPA actually fulfills its mission and cracks down on polluters. But they’re shying away from that.

The Obama administration is retreating on long-delayed environmental regulations — new rules governing smog and toxic emissions from industrial boilers — as it adjusts to a changed political dynamic in Washington with a more muscular Republican opposition.

The move to delay the rules, announced this week by the Environmental Protection Agency, will leave in place policies set by President George W. Bush. President Obama ran for office promising tougher standards, and the new rules were set to take effect over the next several weeks.

Now, the agency says, it needs until July 2011 to further analyze scientific and health studies of the smog rules and until April 2012 on the boiler regulation. Mr. Obama, having just cut a painful deal with Republicans intended to stimulate the economy, can ill afford to be seen as simultaneously throttling the fragile recovery by imposing a sheaf of expensive new environmental regulations that critics say will cost jobs.

As Dave Roberts says, this is a ridiculous justification from EPA. They have already done the studies showing that the rules on smog and boiler regulation would prevent thousands of deaths and tens of thousands of asthma attacks. This delay is a death warrant for Americans – and it’s a deficit-buster, too, because cutting down on toxic pollution would save tens of billions of dollars in public health costs. Roberts quotes Frank O’Donnell of Clean Air Watch, who said, “It is hard to avoid the impression that EPA is running scared from the incoming Congress.”

The National Association of Manufacturers and the American Petroleum Institute praised this deal. They always have the working man at heart.

Doesn’t bode well for the future, especially considering that executive branch actions are probably the only point of potential progress for the next couple years.

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David Dayen

David Dayen