Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson told Congress on Thursday that she "respected" President Obama’s recent decision to shelve her proposed tougher smog standards, and said her agency will aggressively implement the weaker Bush-era standards she once called "not legally defensible."
“It’s no secret that the recommendation we sent over [to the White House] and the package we sent over was something different,” Jackson told the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight and Investigations panel.
Testifying to Congress for the first time since Obama rejected her proposal earlier this month, Jackson revealed that she had recommended to Obama a new nationwide ground-level ozone or "smog" standard of 70 parts per billion.
In a July letter, Jackson called the Bush-era ozone standard of 75 parts per billion “not legally defensible given the scientific evidence."
On Thursday, Jackson told Congress her agency will begin enforcing that standard nationwide, despite ongoing legal challenges that it is too lax to protect many Americans from airborne pollution.
Asked about Obama's decision to reject her proposal, Jackson said: "I respected the decision and I implemented it."
“The 2008 standard is on the books,” Jackson said, promising nationwide implementation "in a common-sense way, minimizing the burden on state and local governments.”
Some areas of the country are still working under the 1997 standard of 84 parts per billion.
Emissions from industrial facilities, electric utilities, motor vehicles, and chemical solvents are the major man-made sources of the compounds that join to create ground-level ozone. Each state will have to work with EPA to determine how to limit ozone in the air by reducing those emissions.
Subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns, R-Fla. said that Obama’s retreat on the tougher standards “shows that the president is also worried about overregulation by the EPA and he had to step in.”
But Jackson vigorously opposed the notion that enforcing environmental rules hurts the economy and threatens jobs.
"Some would have us believe that 'job killing' describes EPA’s regulations. It is misleading to say that enforcement of our nation’s environmental laws is bad for the economy and employment. It isn’t," Jackson testified.
"In contrast to doomsday predictions, history has shown, again and again, that we can clean up pollution, create jobs, and grow our economy all at the same time," Jackson said. "Over the same 40 years since the Clean Air Act was passed, the gross domestic product of the United States grew by more than 200 percent."
Jackson's testimony came a day before House Republicans were expected to pass a measure that would delay two major air-pollution rules for at least a year and create a committee to analyze the affect of EPA regulations on jobs and the economy.