Aww: Environmentalists upset at Obama's retreat on air quality standards

In case you missed it, O-bow-ma yesterday caved to John Boehner for the second time this week when he retreated on proposed regulations for air standards — and the reversal has left environmentalists feeling just so lost:

In late August, the State Department gave a crucial go-ahead on a controversial pipeline to bring tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast. Then on Friday, leading into the holiday weekend, the Obama administration announced without warning that it was walking away from stricter ozone pollution standards that it had been promising for three years and instead sticking with Bush-era standards. …

John D. Walke, clean air director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an advocacy group based in New York, likened the ozone decision to a “bomb being dropped.”

Mr. Walke and representatives of other environmental groups saw the president’s actions as brazen political sellouts to business interests and the Republican Party, which regards environmental regulations as job killers and a brick wall to economic recovery.

The question for environmentalists became, what to do next?

“There is shock and chaos here,” Mr. Walke said, “so I do not know. I can’t answer that question.” But he added that his group would resume a smog lawsuit against the government that it had dropped because it had been lulled into believing that this administration would enact tougher regulations without being forced to do so by the courts.

Activists say they’ve lost enthusiasm for the president and just aren’t sure how they’ll muster the energy to campaign for him with the same zeal they exhibited in 2008. Which means, what? That they’ll vote for Republicans, who routinely make the (correct) argument that excessive environmental regulation kills jobs, who want to curtail said regulations, along with protections for endangered species? I think not.

The growing MSM narrative that Obama has too weakly and too frequently granted concessions to Republicans would seem to work in the GOP’s favor, but, in the end, it could just as easily work against Republicans, when, in his 2012 campaign, the president is able to tout a spirit of compromise and cite specific examples.

So, while some suggest his decision was a gamble with an uncertain political payoff, I’m in the same camp as Kevin Book, an analyst with the consulting firm ClearView Energy Partners, who thinks the decision will be a political benefit to Obama.

“The first thing the Obama administration gains is the ability to say ‘look I identified the most expensive regulation and I eliminated it,” Book told The Hill. “He is never going to get Republican votes for loosening environmental standards, but he could get independent votes by showing flexibility on fiscal issues.”

Only if Republicans keep their promise to continue to hammer at regulations — and if they win additional successes — will this have been a first step worth celebrating.