Smog, EPA and NAM

NAM, industry's illegal war, and the smell of ozone in the morning: Industry is waging a carpet-bombing lobbying campaign, led by the National Association of Manufacturers or NAM, urging EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson to defy the law and adopt a health standard for ground-level ozone (smog) pollution that won't protect Americans.

This morning, EPA conditionally surrendered to that attack, presumably under coercion from the White House, by leaving on the table the option to satisfy NAM's illegal wishes, and maintain the current ozone standard that EPA's blue-ribbon panel of scientists has concluded unanimously has "no scientific justification" for being maintained. Instead, these science advisors conclude that the current ozone standard of 84 parts per billion (ppb) "needs to be substantially reduced" to between 60 and 70 ppb in order to protect Americans.

Let's harken back to 2001, when Justice Scalia writing on behalf of a unanimous Supreme Court in Whitman v. American Trucking Associations ruled that any consideration of cost to industry or economic impacts would violate the Clean Air Act when EPA sets health standards for ozone or other air pollutants.  Flash forward to 2007, when NAM lobbyists are brazenly urging the administration, in back rooms and in the press, to maintain today's unprotective ozone health standard by . . . considering cost to industry and economic impacts.

NAM either has not read Justice Scalia's unanimous opinion or is cheerfully defying the Law of the Land because, hey, it beats spending money to protect the public from dangerous industrial pollution.

So what's next on NAM's list of laws and Supreme Court rulings to defy?  Brown v. Board of Education?  The Supreme Court rulings upholding the constitutionality of child labor laws?  Makes you wonder where NAM draws the line between laws they will follow and laws they will flout.

Also makes you wonder why EPA would purposefully preserve its ability to adopt an unprotective ozone standard that has "no scientific justification." Could it be because Johnson's political bosses in the administration have already decided to keep the indefensibly weak 84 ppb standard and just did not want to suffer the bad publicity of announcing that intention today?

So now all eyes will turn toward the waning days of this administration, before they board the helicopters to leave D.C., when EPA must adopt a final ozone standard: will EPA follow the unanimous Supreme Court ruling and unanimous conclusion of their science advisors by strengthening the ozone standard to no higher than 60-70 ppb?  Or will the EPA's experience with NAM and the White House leave the agency shell-shocked, traumatized, and unwilling to protect Americans?

About the Authors

John Walke

Director, Clean Air, Climate & Clean Energy Program

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