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Obama Rejected EPA Smog Standards After Intense Lobbying

HeadlineNov 18, 2011

New details have been revealed on the political maneuverings behind President Obama’s decision to reject tougher regulations on smog pollution earlier this year. The New York Times reports industry lobbying played a critical role in Obama’s rejection of standards proposed by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency head Lisa Jackson. Mindful of White House concerns over opposition from corporate interests and state lawmakers, Jackson submitted a proposal she viewed as a major compromise, with a weaker limit on pollution and considerable leeway for compliance. The EPA recommended that ozone levels be limited to 65 parts per billion, estimating it would prevent as many as 7,200 deaths, 11,000 emergency room visits and 38,000 acute cases of asthma each year. But industry groups unleashed intense lobbying on lawmakers and White House officials. R. Bruce Josten, the chief lobbyist for the Chamber of Commerce, appeared to suggest his strategy was based on convincing the White House that hardships posed on industry from the new regulations was more important than protecting public health. Describing a meeting with Jackson, Josten said, “She listened to us, but then talked about how important it was to do this, the lung thing, the asthma thing, the kids’ health thing. She felt it was important to go ahead. The funny thing was nobody wanted to come right out and say, 'Are you guys thinking this through? Your boss is up for re-election next year… You're going to have a major negative impact on the economy.’” The New York Times also reports Obama’s chief of staff, William Daley, appeared to be heavily swayed after a lobbyist provided him with a map showing the smog rules would negatively impact industrial interests in a number of states up for grabs in the 2012 election. Daley also appeared to ignore figures provided by environmentalists showing little difference in job growth and the economy in areas that have adopted stricter ozone standards compared with those that have not.

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