Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency quietly delayed the release of final rules on ground-level ozone pollution standards, better known as smog. One clean-air group called the delay "a potentially ominous development," as the agency has been pressured to forgo the new standards.
The agency proposed tough new rules in January, tightening controversial Bush-era regulations that experts believe imperiled public health. But EPA has faced push-back from the industry and a group of senators, who asked the agency to hold off on the new rules. Opponents of the standards argue that it's only been two years since the Bush administration released the last set of rules, and updates are generally issued every five years (they failed to mention, however, that the Bush rules were far weaker than the agency's own scientists recommended).
The final rule was supposed to be released at the end of this month; now EPA says it won't be issued for at least another two months. In a statement, EPA said it still intends to issue a new rule:
EPA remains committed to protecting public health from the dangers of ground-level ozone, a key component of smog. We are continuing to carefully consider the proposed options and the information we received during the public comment period on the January 2010 proposal. There will be a slight delay in finalizing our decision on any new ozone standards. We expect to finalize the standards towards the end of October 2010. We have spoken with the litigants and have updated the court on our status.
But Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, thinks the delay is a bad sign for the rules. "Obviously, we want EPA to make the best possible decision, using the best possible science. But this delay is bad news for breathers," said O'Donnell. "We can only hope it is a temporary setback, and that the EPA does not bow to political pressure on an issue so significant."