Big Business Wins with New EPA Standards

President Obama has overruled the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to improve the nation’s air quality by compelling states and communities to reduce local air pollution or face federal penalties. The business community has been lobbying to postpone the new restrictions until 2013, saying they would cause undue strain on the economy during the current downturn.

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In a statement issued Friday, Obama praised the EPA’s efforts, but said he had asked EPA administrator Lisa P. Jackson to withdraw the draft standards, as current ozone standards, based on a 2006 review of the science, are set to be reconsidered in 2013. “Ultimately, I did not support asking state and local governments to begin implementing a new standard that will soon be reconsidered,” said Obama.

The government reviews standards for ground-level ozone — which is formed when emissions from power plants, other industrial facilities, vehicles and landfills react to the sunlight — every five years, but Jackson chose to revisit the standard set during the Bush administration at 75 parts per billion in March 2008, as it was higher than the EPA’s recommendation at the time of 60 to 70 ppb. In January 2010, she announced her plan to re-set the standard to somewhere between 60 and 70 ppb.

Though smog can cause or aggravate health problems ranging from asthma to heart disease, and has been linked to premature death, the new EPA standards have been an issue of contention as counties failing to meet them would risk losing federal funds considered necessary to industrial expansion, which would also be hindered by the restrictive environmental policies. To objectors, the new standards would hurt the economic recovery. Meanwhile, those who supported the new standards are infuriated at the government for having, in their eyes, put the health of its citizens second to that of big business.

Here are some stocks which will benefit from the news: Dominion Resources (NYSE:D), Consolidated Edison, Inc. (NYSE:ED), Progress Energy, Inc. (NYSE:PGN), Duke Energy Corporation (NYSE:DUK), Wisconsin Energy Corp (NYSE:WEC), Utilities SPDR ETF (NYSE:XLU), Energy Select Sector SPDR ETF (NYSE:XLE), and Market Vectors-Coal ETF (NYSE:KOL).