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Obama Abandons EPA Smog Regulations

For the second time this week, the Obama administration backed down from a terrible idea, after receiving a written request from John Boehner. Maybe the Speaker should send the president letters more often:

The White House announced Friday that it is shelving a major planned EPA regulation that would have tightened smog standards, dealing a huge blow to environmentalists that had pushed the Obama administration to resist industry pressure to abandon the regulation.

President Obama announced that the rule is being shelved in a statement that says the White House is wary of imposing regulatory burdens during the economic recovery.

Boehner’s office has already praised the president’s decision, which it says is a step in the right direction for the economy.

“This is certainly a good first step, and we’re glad that the White House responded to the Speaker’s letter and recognized the job-killing impact of this particular regulation,” said Boehner’s spokesperson Michael Steel in an emailed statement. “But it is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to stopping Washington Democrats’ agenda of tax hikes, more government ‘stimulus’ spending, and increased regulations — which are all making it harder to create more American jobs.”

Of course environmental activists will scream about it, but you have to appreciate the president’s timing. Green groups have already been mounting daily protests outside the White House against the Keystone XL pipeline. What are they going to do now? Louder protests? Bigger signs?

And just to highlight how vitally important the smog regulations were to green groups, here’s a recent blog post by the president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, rejecting Boehner’s opposition to the EPA plan as an “extremist view of environmental regulations”:

Both [Rep. Eric] Cantor’s analysis and his remedy ring false. Worse, if adopted his plan would do real harm to real Americans. It could kill.

By blocking the Environmental Protection Agency from updating national smog standards, more than 4,000 Americans could die annually and more than 2,000 could suffer heart attacks each year. In the absence of mercury standards the plan would eliminate, 17,000 Americans would die prematurely, 11,000 people would have heart attacks, and 120,000 children would experience asthma attacks every year.

It remains to be seen if environmental groups will attack Obama with the same intensity that they went after Republicans. The Natural Resources Defense Council tweeted earlier today that the “@WhiteHouse is siding with corporate polluters over our health. The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to set protective standards against smog,” which isn’t nearly as harsh as the criticism of Boehner. But this is still a major defeat, and green activists usually aren’t the types to accept losses like this with grace and dignity.