White House weakened EPA soot proposal, documents show

The White House recently modified an Environmental Protection Agency proposal to limit soot emissions, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post, inviting public comment on a slightly weaker standard than the agency had originally sought.
The behind-the-scenes tweaking of the proposed soot standards, which affect particles measuring less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, sparked criticism that the White House was interfering with science-based decisions.
Fine particles, which come from oil refineries, factories and other operations, rank among the most deadly widespread air pollutants. The EPA had originally wanted to tighten the annual exposure to fine-particle soot from 15 micrograms per cubic meter of air to 12 micrograms per cubic meter, according to an e-mail between Office of Management and Budget and EPA officials.
But the OMB directed the EPA to make the limit between 12 and 13 micrograms per cubic meter of air.
Frank O’Donnell, who heads the advocacy group Clean Air Watch, cited the change as “the latest in a pattern of interference by the White House in decisions that rightly belong to EPA, based on science.” Last year President Obama pulled an EPA proposal to impose stricter limits on smog-forming ozone on the grounds that it would be costly and the rules were up for review again starting in 2013.
“If this had been a Bush administration move, every progressive in America would be screaming foul,” O’Donnell added.
But Howard Feldman, who directs regulatory and scientific affairs for the American Petroleum Institute and had sought to keep the soot standard unchanged at 15 micrograms per cubic meter, said the White House had every right to modify the EPA’s proposal. “It’s a policy decision, where to set the standard,” he said.

Read more: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/white-house-weakened-epa-soot-proposal-documents-show/2012/07/17/gJQANH3yrW_print.html

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