Will Obama Stand up for Clean Air?

| Mon Jan. 24, 2011 9:00 AM EST

Following the administration's announcement last week that it wants to make the regulatory system more friendly to businesses, there's some increasing anxiety about whether Obama will aggressively defend the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. A number of environmental and public health groups are lobbying the president to explicitly defend the agency's climate regulations in his State of the Union address on Tuesday.

A coalition of 23 environmental groups sent a letter to Obama asking him to "underscore the critical need for the Clean Air Act’s sensible safeguards and to oppose any attempt to block, weaken, or delay its continued implementation" in the State of the Union address. The groups note that the Clean Air Act is "a remarkably successful public health law that has saved hundreds of thousands of lives over the last 40 years while our economy has tripled in size."

Charles D. Connor, president of the American Lung Association, also sent a letter to Obama last week asking him to "send a clear message that protecting the public from air pollution and enforcing the Clean Air Act is a clear and urgent priority for the health of our nation and the health of our economy." He continued:

The public needs to be reminded that the Clean Air Act has prompted technological innovations that have led to much greater pollution reductions at much lower costs than forecasted. America remains the global leader in air pollution technology. American workers help their fellow citizens and millions around the globe breathe easier.

Of course, every issue group has a wish list of things for President Obama to talk about in next week's State of the Union address. The climate regulations, though, are likely to be among the most contentious for the Obama administration this year, so a clear affirmation of the SOTU this week would certainly be a win for those who care about ensuring that the administration moves forward on protecting clean air.