New limits on smog emissions were released on Thursday by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in a move to decrease suffering due to asthma and respiratory illness.
The EPA has dropped the limit on ozone from 75 parts per billion (ppb), to 70 ppb, in part due to new studies linking ozone exposure to asthma development.
According to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Obama administration officials met with industry groups such as the National Association of Manufacturers, Marathon Oil Corp and American Petroleum Institute, but sent only deputies to health and environmental groups like the American Lung Association and the Sierra Club.
Both industry and environmental groups were upset with the new limit, with each side claiming that it was either too low or too high. Government officials considered a stricter limit of 68 ppb, but chose to listen to industry group representatives like Paul Noe, vice-president of the American Forest and Paper Association.
Noe stated that going with a 68 ppb limit would cost ten times as much as 70 ppb. Noe also claimed that the stricter limit would nearly triple the number of affected pulp and paper facilities, from 41 to 114.
This was not the first time the administration listened to industry groups. In 2011, Obama shelved an EPA proposal for tighter pollution standards in light of the precarious status of the economic recovery.
Limits on the air pollutant nitrogen oxide are set to drop by one third by 2025, following a 50% reduction in 1990. However, many have not met the 1990 limits yet, and criticize moving to a lower standard.
John Walke of the National Resources Defense Council criticized the Obama administration for not pursuing a lower limit, “The president’s legacy is shaping up to be one of unprecedented leadership on combating climate change, but weakness on health standards for smog pollution.”
EPA administrator Gina McCarthy defended the limit stating that studies showing an effect from ozone levels as low as 60 ppb were not shown to be harmful.