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8 Environmental Rules That Were Too Controversial To Enact Pre-Election

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Environment and Climate Resource Center page and our Politics and Democracy page.

Now that the election is over and Barack Obama will be staying in the White House for another four years, environmental groups are hoping that some long-awaited new rules will break loose from the regulatory log-jam.

It's no surprise that a lot of the rules that seemed to do a disappearing act are the ones that the fossil-fuel industry and Republicans in Congress have opposed. "It takes no genius to see that from mid-summer until now there were not going to be any major controversial rules finalized until after the election," said Trip Van Noppen, president of Earthjustice, which has filed suit to speed up the delivery of several of these delayed regulations.

While some rules were delayed this year because of election-season strategizing, others have been backlogged for years. The sticking place for many of them is the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Office of Management and Budget, a White House outpost that is supposed to review draft regulations within 90 days. Many advocates for tougher environmental and public health rules blamed OIRA for being too timid in Obama's first term, weakening or delaying any rule that could be contentious.

Here are eight environmental problems that the Obama administration could soon get around to regulating:

1. Greenhouse gas emissions: Last March, the Environmental Protection Agency announced new limits on greenhouse gas pollution from power plants. The new standards would make it very unlikely that any new conventional coal-fired plants would be built in the United States. The comment period on the new rule closed in June, but the EPA has yet to finalize the rule. The EPA also has not yet issued rules for existing power plants, but is expected to do so once the rules for new power plants are in place.

2. Ozone pollution: In January 2010, the EPA rolled out tough new standards for ground-level ozone pollution, which creates smog. But then the proposed rules just sat there, and sat there, until September 2011, when President Obama personally stepped in to quash the ozone rule as part of his effort to reduce "regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty," directing the EPA to hold off on updating the standard until 2013. Enviros were livid, accusing Obama of throwing the ozone rule under the bus in his attempt to appear business-friendly in the run up to the election. Meanwhile, the tougher rules would save an estimated 2,450 to 4,130 lives per year, according to a recent study from researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

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