The Obama administration is retreating on long-delayed environmental regulations — new rules governing smog and toxic emissions from industrial boilers — as it adjusts to a changed political dynamic in Washington with a more muscular Republican opposition.
The move to delay the rules, announced this week by the Environmental Protection Agency, will leave in place policies set by President George W. Bush. President Obama ran for office promising tougher standards, and the new rules were set to take effect over the next several weeks.
Now, the agency says, it needs until July 2011 to further analyze scientific and health studies of the smog rules and until April 2012 on the boiler regulation. Mr. Obama, having just cut a painful deal with Republicans intended to stimulate the economy, can ill afford to be seen as simultaneously throttling the fragile recovery by imposing a sheaf of expensive new environmental regulations that critics say will cost jobs.
I don't get the logic here. The EPA rulemaking process was intended, partially at least, to circumvent a do-nothing Congress. Now that a Congress has been elected that has even *less* inclination to address environmental issues, the president has decided he shouldn't use the executive branch's rulemaking power after all? Because critics might say boo? The critics who were going to say boo in any case?
I'm not saying that it's not legitimate to balance regulation against the economy. But the only real change to the calculations of that balance seems to be that the president now believes action would hurt his re-election. And that seems simply craven. What am I missing here?