What do you call a team that wins the league pennant and then throws the World Series?
Today’s New York Times article about the behind the scenes lobbying that lead to the abandonment of revised health-based ozone standards is revealing if unsurprising. What is interesting is that the exact same phony cost benefit arguments that the Supreme Court held EPA need not consider in Whitman v. American Trucking Association seemed to have carried the day at OIRA, leading EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to abandon proposed new National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone under the Clean Air Act.
Specifically, clean air opponents argued that economic costs associated with compliance would increase unemployment, and that unemployment is worse for public health than smog. Clean Air Act section 109(b)(1) requies EPA to establish the NAAQS at a levels that “allowing an adequate margin of safety, are requisite to protect the public health.” Industry’s argument was that this health based standard required consideration of economic costs, because economic costs have public health impacts. The Supreme Court in Whitman specifically rejected this argument that EPA should consider the health impacts of unemployment in establishing the NAAQS. But these exact same arguments carried the day in the Obama administration OIRA.
And this comes out the same week that a Washington Post piece debunks the whole argument that environmental regulations increase unemployment.
Who’d a thunk that it would be the Obama administration that undid on political grounds one of the greatest environmental legal wins during the Bush administration? (OK, actually Bush’s EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman only got her name on the case because it was decided after the change in administrations — it was the Clinton administration’s regulations and legal win on the Ozone and PM 2.5 NAAQS). The Times piece portrays OIRA director Cass Sunstein as just itching to issue the OIRA “return letter” blocking the regulations. This comes as no surprise to many who were long suspicious of Sunstein’s predilection for cost-benefit analysis, but some of us had hoped for better.
And we thought that the Obama team would be fighting for a win on environmental health issues.