President Obama: We Can’t Hold Our Breath for Two Years


by Katy Farber

Oh, the disappointment. I mean, I don’t like redoing things either. I get it. You didn’t want to ask cities and towns to do something, and then do it again a few years later.

In case you missed it, President Obama announced Friday that he had asked EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to withdraw the final National Ambient Air Quality Standard (known as a “NAAQS”) for ozone pollution, which she and her agency had sent to the White House for review.

You’re talking to someone who does not like turning around on the highway for anything. The idea of going backwards, away from the end goal, for me is painful. Just ask my husband. When traveling down a lonesome road in Alaska, I didn’t want to turn around at a restaurant, which ended up being the last food for miles. And miles. (Not that I heard much about it afterwards.)

So I really get it.

But the trouble is, this isn’t a highway stop. The new smog regulations outlined by the EPA are supported by sound science (as if anyone cares about that these days). In fact, our supposedly science-supporting president is acting just like his anti-science predecessor George Bush about these air quality standards. In an article about the smog decision, Grist author Lisa Heinserling said,

“It is hard to see how President Obama’s decision today reflects an attitude toward science that is any more respectful than the attitude the Bush administration displayed in its 2008 ozone standard.”

Keith Oberman’s commentary on the subject shows us how this issue is different. We can’t just hold our breath for two years. This isn’t simply turning around on the highway. Vulnerable people: our seniors, our children, and the sick – are profoundly affected by ozone, or smog, in America’s cities.

Smog has been shown to contribute to premature death, lung problems such as bronchitis and asthma, and heart attacks.

According to the Kansas City Star:

“The EPA had projected that the range it proposed would have saved an estimated 1,500 to 12,000 lives per year. The EPA also had said that the stricter ozone rule would have prevented thousands of cases of respiratory infections, asthma attacks and cases of bronchitis. The agency had said that smog was responsible for tens of thousands of emergency room visits per year.”

I ask if this human suffering and premature death is worth a compromise with corporate polluters and big business interests? I ask the many parents out there, Republican, Democrat, or Independent, do you think our most vulnerable should have to face more ailments, and more chance of premature death, to ease perceived pressure on the economy?

The threats to the economy from these standards have been exaggerated, according to the EPA and environmental groups. It seems we need to back up and look at the big picture. The EPA’s own studies show that the new ozone standards would save 100 billion dollars in health care costs. That number is nothing to sneeze at, but for some reason it isn’t part of President Obama’s decision-making.

According to Friends of the Earth director David Hirsch, and quoting from the above linked MSNBC article:

His decision will mean more children suffering from asthma and more permanent lung damage for adults. “Adding insult to injury,” Hirsch said, “President Obama claimed that asking corporations to act responsibly is too much of a ‘burden’ for them, ignoring the fact that studies show responsible environmental protections spur investment in clean technology and create jobs.”

Indeed, this decision takes us a step back from looking at the big picture. Don’t we realize now that a fast food burger “costs” more than $1.99? The invisible costs: to the environment, to animals, to workers, our waistlines, and health risks, float above fast food. Why can’t President Obama see that corporate responsibility is just that, responsibility, to the people of this country that sustain them? If corporations are indeed to be treated as people, can they act with humanity and a collective vision to help people, especially our most vulnerable?

Ask any parent of a child with asthma, or another chronic health condition, if the trade-off is worth it. Or, if we should just wait another two years to begin saving lives and reducing harm from smog. Ask any senior citizen who has to stay inside because of the high ozone if they think we should wait.

When it comes to human health, to our collective humanity, there is no compromise. Please, President Obama, this time, it’s different. Turn the car around.

Re-posted from Moms Clean Air Force. Learn more on Facebook.


Related Stories:

President Obama’s Energy Problem

Obama Retreats on Ozone Rules

Your Child’s Brain on Mercury


Dianne Robertson
Dianne Robertson6 years ago


Rea P.
Rea Petersen6 years ago

And we declared war to get terrorists for causing the deaths of 3,000 people? I can see who the real terrorists are - the big corporations and Obama. And to think I voted for him...

Victoria M.
Past Member 6 years ago

im so disgusted with this crap.

Annie C.
Annie C.6 years ago

great. not another setback...

Guess we'll have to work at getting back what we lost.

On the bright side, it is Greenpeace's 40th anniversary. Let's cheer for all their successes!

teresa royer
Terry Royer6 years ago

very disappointing!!!!!!!!! we all know he is been battling the repug from day one!!!!!!but he is not following the things he was suppost to he a closet republican??????????

Fern Dielentheis
Fern D6 years ago

The Re-elect Obama ad right above the comments here is pretty disgusting too. Really, he's going to protect Medicare? I think not. I think he will yap about it and then go along with whatever the Republicans decide. He acts like he's all helpless but nobody's forcing his sorry ass to sign the things he signs.

Fern Dielentheis
Fern D6 years ago

It's time for the DFL to do the "turning around" and nominate somebody else for a candidate. Obama's a do-nothing corporate shill in disguise.

Jarno Lahtinen
Jarno Lahtinen6 years ago

I'm kinda glad I don't have a vote in the US election - between deciding whether to vote for the king of disappointments, Obama just to stop one of the loonie-toon lineup of current republican candidate frontrunners from getting to office, would be a tough, tough decision.

I don't know who Obama is trying to appeal to - it seems that in almost every issue he's gone against the will of the majority of people who voted him in. Those who appreciate those decisions are republicans who wouldn't vote for him no matter what he did.

I could understand if the decisions he's made were actually rationally defensible, but I don't think many of them are. Of course his presidency has been hurt by a concerted effort by republicans to stop him form doing whatever he's trying to do, no matter what it is, but still, he's failed to close down Guantanamo, he's kept the faith based programs that are unconstutional, and he's participated in the prayer breakfast run by "the family" - the extreme religious group behind such wonderful things as the anti-gay legislation in Uganda. He just keeps doing the wrong things, or failing to do the right ones.

I sure don't wish a republican US president to be inflicted on the world, but I've really grown to dislike Obama.

Sara T.
Sara T6 years ago

I was crushed when I heard Obama decided he wanted to sacrifice air quality probably so he could be reelected. Who does he represent? His own party? I'm a progressive, and an adult asthmatic. I live in CA where the air pollution problems from Sacramento affect me. Now, I'm not able to take walks outside without a mask. All I, and the others of us with breathing problems need is worse air to try to breathe! Grrrrr! Gasp!

Jamie Clemons
Jamie Clemons6 years ago

Bush was the worst president ever, but Obama is quickly catching up in a close number 3 and at least we knew what we were in for with Bush. With Obama it has just been one long disappointment after another. I can't hold my nose long enough to ever vote for Obusha again.