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.
The delays represent a marked departure from the first two years of the Obama presidency, when the E.P.A. moved quickly to reverse one Bush environmental policy after another. Administration officials now face the question of whether in their zeal to undo the Bush agenda they reached too far and provoked an unmanageable political backlash.
Environmental advocates are furious. They fear a similar delay on the approaching start of one of the most far-reaching regulatory programs in American environmental history, the effort to curb emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.