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Inhofe seconds Democrats' call for look at ozone decision
October 26, 2011

Posted by Matt Dempsey

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Inhofe seconds Democrats' call for look at ozone decision

Jean Chemnick, E&E reporter

Published: Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Link to article

The top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee today urged the panel's Democratic leaders to make good on their promise to hold a hearing on the president's decision to scrap a revision of ozone standards.

"Although I think most observers would agree that the president has simply acknowledged the obvious -- that EPA's rules create regulatory burdens and uncertainty that undermine job creation -- I fully support the need for such a hearing and urge you to have your staff work with committee minority staff to schedule a hearing as soon as possible," said Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) in a letter to panel Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.).

After the president announced last month that U.S. EPA would not finalize a more stringent rule for smog-forming emissions that had long been sought by the agency and environmentalists, both Boxer and Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee Chairman Carper said they would hold an oversight hearing to examine the decision (E&ENews PM, Sept. 7). No hearing has been scheduled, however.

The hearing would place Democrats in the unusual position of criticizing EPA, while Inhofe and other Republicans support its decision on ozone. The Oklahoman said in his letter that the proposed limit of between 60 and 70 parts per billion would have amounted to a "construction ban on much of the country, dealing a blow to an already weak economy."

Inhofe also questioned the basis of the proposed rule, saying that the Clean Air Act actually gives EPA more discretion to consider the economic effects of the rule than the agency acknowledged when writing it.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has said that the law requires the agency to set a limit for emissions that is stringent enough to protect public health. Cost and economic considerations are to be considered when deciding where emissions reductions should be made but not when determining emissions limits.

"This interpretation of the administrator's duties flies in the face of common sense and robs her of the ability to exercise the discretion afforded by the Clean Air Act," Inhofe said. The law actually requires EPA to consider information when setting a standard that "may fall outside of a strict interpretation of the scientific record, which is not always clear."

While he expressed support for the Obama administration's decision, Inhofe said he still has concerns about the effect of ozone emissions rules on states like his own.

The administration delayed implementation of a 2008 ozone standard while it pursued a more stringent one but now plans to go ahead with the George W. Bush-era standard. Inhofe said EPA should not require states to quickly write implementation plans for an ozone rule that will be revised in two to three years.

"In Oklahoma and surrounding states, many areas are in or near nonattainment status under the 2008 standards," Inhofe said. "Costly state implementation plans that must be drafted and implemented quickly will strain local governments and cost Oklahomans jobs."

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