The House of Representatives has voted to pass Republican-backed legislation blocking regulations which reduce smog-causing air pollutants. The bill’s supporters say it will help job creators while opponents argue it would cost lives.
The Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2017, which, if signed into law, would scrap the implementation of air pollution standards for the next eight years. The guidelines were issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under President Barack Obama in 2015.
Those regulations reduced the allowed amount of ground-level ozone from 75 parts per billion (ppb) to 70 ppb.
“The bill would delay lifesaving protections against ozone pollution, exposing Americans to unnecessary pollution levels that will lead to asthma attacks and premature deaths that could have been prevented,” said Harold P. Wimmer, head of the American Lung Association, one of over a dozen health organizations opposing the bill.
Wimmer called it a “direct assault” on the right of Americans to breathe healthy air.
Several pro-business groups such as the American Petroleum Institute, the American Chemistry Council and the US Chamber of Commerce have predictably supported the legislation.
“This bill is about listening to job creators back home,” said its primary sponsor, Representative Pete Olson (R-Texas), who represents a district that depends on the oil and gas industry.
Stricter standards approved by Obama’s EPA would force American companies to invest billions in new pollution reduction measures, according to Olson.
“This is a blueprint to Make America Sick Again,” countered Democratic Rep. Gerald Connolly of Virginia, mocking Donald Trump’s campaign slogan.
The EPA under the previous administration estimated that it would cost $1.4 billion to meet the stricter standards, arguing, that the benefits for public health outweighed the price.
A bill, similar to the one passed by the House Tuesday, is advancing in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Earlier in July, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit struck down the Trump administration’s 90-day suspension of Obama-era rules that limited methane and smog-forming pollutants emitted by oil and gas wells.
The court said the EPA under Trump could reconsider the rules but could not delay the date it begins.
Scott Pruitt, now the head of the EPA, previously sued the agency 14 times in his capacity as Oklahoma’s attorney general for its efforts to regulate mercury, smog and other forms of pollution.
Pruitt claimed the EPA overstepped its legal authority by saddling the fossil-fuel industry with unnecessary regulations.