Trump tells EPA to ease air rules

Di­rec­tive spec­i­fies goal of pro­mot­ing job cre­ation

USA TODAY International Edition - - NEWS - Led­yard King

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Trump’s lat­est ef­fort to boost the na­tion’s man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor is an in­dus­try-friendly re­write of air qual­ity reg­u­la­tions he says pose “un­nec­es­sary and out­dated bar­ri­ers to growth.”

But en­vi­ron­men­tal ad­vo­cates warn it would be an­other dam­ag­ing step by an ad­min­is­tra­tion ob­sessed with dereg­u­la­tion at the ex­pense of hard-fought pub­lic health pro­tec­tions.

The pro­posed loos­en­ing of air qual­ity stan­dards came in the form of a di­rec­tive Trump is­sued Thurs­day in­struct­ing the EPA to work with states that have metro ar­eas which failed to at­tain clean air stan­dards. The pres­i­dent’s pri­mary aim, the di­rec­tive states, is “pro­mot­ing do­mes­tic man­u­fac­tur­ing and job cre­ation.”

Dozens of com­mu­ni­ties across the coun­try fail to meet Clean Air Act stan­dards for at least one of six key pol­lu­tants — ground-level ozone (smog), par­tic­u­late mat­ter (soot or smoke), car­bon monox­ide, lead, sul­fur diox­ide, and ni­tro­gen diox­ide — ac­cord­ing to the EPA.

Build­ing or ex­pand­ing ma­jor projects, such as high­ways and man­u­fac­tur­ing plants, in these “non-at­tain­ment” ar­eas re­quires ex­tra time and cost to make sure the in­creased in­dus­trial ac­tiv­ity won’t worsen air qual­ity. And states with non-at­tain­ment ar­eas have to file plans with the EPA to show how they’re con­fronting the prob­lem, a re­view process that can take years.

Trump’s di­rec­tive or­ders the EPA to work with states to ex­pe­dite those ap­provals and in­structs the agency to con­sider whether the cur­rent process “should be re­vised or re­scinded ... to pro­vide states with ad­di­tional im­ple­men­ta­tion flex­i­bil­ity.”

“These ac­tions are in­tended to en­sure that EPA car­ries out its core mis­sions of pro­tect­ing the en­vi­ron­ment and im­prov­ing air qual­ity in accord with statu­tory re­quire­ments, while re­duc­ing un­nec­es­sary im­ped­i­ments to new man­u­fac­tur­ing and busi­ness ex­pan­sion es­sen­tial for a grow­ing econ­omy,” the pres­i­dent said in a state­ment ac­com­pa­ny­ing the or­der.

The di­rec­tive comes at a time when EPA Ad­min­is­tra­tor Scott Pruitt has been un­der in­creas­ing bi­par­ti­san fire on Capi­tol Hill for a num­ber of man­age­ment mis­steps, spend­ing de­ci­sions and po­ten­tial eth­i­cal con­flicts.

The pres­i­dent has staunchly de­fended Pruitt, ap­plaud­ing how ag­gres­sively the EPA is rolling back reg­u­la­tions and pro­mot­ing eco­nomic growth.

In the 14 months he’s been the na­tion’s top en­vi­ron­men­tal rule­maker, he has rolled back the Clean Power Plan and helped con­vince the pres­i­dent to back out of the Paris Accord on cli­mate change.

Trump’s vow to bring back coal, im­por­tant in such min­ing states as West Vir­ginia, have been buoyed by Pruitt.

Pres­i­dent Trump has de­fended EPA Ad­min­is­tra­tor Scott Pruitt for rolling back reg­u­la­tions and pro­mot­ing eco­nomic growth. AN­DREW HARNIK/AP

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