The United States will enforce standards on smog pollution set in 2008 under the Bush administration after the White House gave way to pressure from business groups to drop proposals for stricter limits.
Lisa Jackson, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), told a congressional hearing on 22 September that her office will enforce a ground level ozone limit of 75 parts per billion (ppb).
The new standard – cutting the current limit of 84 ppb adopted in 1997 – is expected to raise costs for power generators such as Southern Co and American Electric Power as states are forced to tighten their controls.
President Barack Obama had earlier killed an EPA plan to cut levels to between 60 and 70 ppb on the grounds of protecting the faltering US economy from regulatory burdens. The agency had estimated that stricter limits would cost the economy as much as $90m per year.
The 1997 limit had remained in force after the introduction of the new standard in 2008 because the EPA had aimed to introduce a tougher measure.
Air quality fails to meet the 2008 standard in 52 areas – including Baltimore, San Diego, Dallas-Fort Worth and parts of Los Angeles – the EPA said in a memo to state officials.
President Obama’s Republican opponents are pushing to restrict the EPA’s ability to regulate on other air pollutants such as mercury.
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