House approves bill to delay EPA rule on ozone pollution

WASHINGTON (AP) — Ignoring a White House veto threat, the Republican-controlled House on Wednesday approved a bill delaying an Obama administration rule setting stricter limits on air pollution linked to asthma and respiratory illness.

The bill, approved 234-177, would delay implementation of a new federal ozone standard by at least eight years. In the Senate, approval of the bill as a stand-alone measure is considered unlikely. Proponents said they may try to insert the ozone proposal into a broader energy bill stalled in the Senate.

The White House says the measure would block efforts to reduce smog, leading to more asthma attacks and premature deaths. The Environmental Protection Agency plans to implement the ozone rule over a 20-year period that gives the most-polluted states until 2037 to fully comply.

But Republicans said a series of interim deadlines set to begin this fall are difficult for states to meet. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Pete Olson of Texas, delays state action until 2024.

“States have worked hard over the last few decades to reduce ozone levels and improve air quality,” Olson said. “My bill provides needed flexibility so that states and localities can adequately achieve new, lower standards with time for compliance.”

The White House said in its veto threat that the bill would “undermine the vitally important environmental and health protections” of the Clean Air Act and significantly delay health benefits worth billions of dollars for millions of Americans, including vulnerable children, older adults and people with asthma.

The bill “would result in people living in areas with unhealthy ozone levels for at least an additional 10 years,” the White House said.

The EPA said the new ozone standard of 70 parts per billion will reduce exposure to dangerous ozone pollution and prevent thousands of asthma attacks and emergency room visits and avert hundreds of premature deaths each year.

Business groups said a new ozone standard is unnecessary and could jeopardize jobs.

Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., said the House bill would “gut” the Clean Air Act and “allow the polluters to override the scientists.”

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Follow Matthew Daly: http://twitter.com/MatthewDalyWDC

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