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U.S. gov't sued for abandoning tougher ozone rules

(Xinhua)

15:43, October 12, 2011

WASHINGTON, Oct. 11 (Xinhua) -- Environmental and public health groups Tuesday sued the Obama administration for nixing stronger standards on ozone, which could cause respiratory illnesses and lung and heart problems.

Earthjustice, a non-profit public interest law firm, the American Lung Association, the Environmental Defense Fund and others filed the lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.

"The Obama administration's inaction in cleaning up ozone pollution, and its decision to ignore the strong recommendations of the scientific community, jeopardizes the health of millions of Americans," said Charles Connor, president of the American Lung Association, in announcing the lawsuit.

On Sept. 2, U.S. President Barack Obama asked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to abandon an ozone regulation proposal, arguing that it might burden industry at a time of deep economic uncertainty.

"I have continued to underscore the importance of reducing regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty, particularly as our economy continues to recover," Obama said in a statement.

Business groups and Republicans said the White House was making the right decision as the country's economy continued to struggle. Criticism from environmentalists was swift following the White House announcement.

"We contend that decision was illegal and irresponsible," David Baron, a lawyer from Earthjustice, told reporters in a conference call on Tuesday. "It was illegal because it was based on politics instead of protecting peoples' health which is what the Clean Air Act requires."

In January 2010, the EPA proposed a new standard for limiting the amount of pollution-forming ozone in the air from 0.075 to between 0.060 and 0.070 parts per million (ppm). Estimated costs of implementing this proposal range from 19 billion to 90 billion U.S. dollars, according to the EPA.

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