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Decision to Delay Air Quality Standard Not Partisan Politics

Last month, the U.S. economy added so few jobs that the unemployment rate held at 9.1% for the general population and a staggering 16.7% for African Americans. Millions of our fellow citizens are still unable to earn the income needed to care for themselves or their families.

In light of this bleak economic news, President Obama-not one to side-step difficult issues-decided to delay EPA’s ozone standard until at least 2013 when it’s due for a standard review under the rules laid out in the Clean Air Act. This decision was received with jeers on one side and cheers on the other. Yet, both sides need to understand the others perspective in order to enjoy any genuine progress on the issue.

From an environmental perspective, the current ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) of 75 parts per billion (ppb) is already several years old, no one should be surprised by them but advocates for stricter standards should await the courts. From industry’s perspective, alternatives to current practices must protect both economic and health interests of the American public. That means regulatory directives need to be cost-effective-especially since now is the worst time in decades to do anything that would further hamstring our economic competitiveness, reduce or relocate jobs, hurt the spending capability of American families, or reduce industry’s ability to invest in infrastructure improvements.

Unfortunately, neither side seems to acknowledge the fact that the White House’s decision to delay a move on the ozone standard was not a partisan decision but an American one. From all indications, our economy is in an extremely fragile state, and we cannot afford any new regulatory action that runs the risk of hindering prospects for recovery. President Obama did not throw out either the environmental concerns or economic concerns. Instead, he chose to give the economy a bit more time to recover before regulatory officials revisit these standards.

Congress is clearly at an impasse even when dealing with some of the country’s most straightforward issues. If we are to overcome this present roadblock to greater policy certainty, EPA and industry will need to redouble their cooperative efforts to find a workable solution.

Continuous partisan bickering, persistent ideological stonewalling, and perpetual incivility are too expensive. And our hardworking families simply cannot afford them.

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