Olson’s Ozone Bill Could Use a Vehicle, But the Energy Bill’s Out

Rep. Pete Olson’s controversial bill pushing back against the Obama administration’s ozone standards needs a bipartisan vehicle to be signed into law. But it’s not clear what that vehicle is.

Olson spokeswoman Melissa Kelly initially told Morning Consult on Tuesday that Olson would try include his ozone bill as part of a conference committee on the House and Senate energy bills. But she later recanted, saying she had learned that energy bill is not the proper vehicle for provisions on the Environmental Protection Agency.

Olson’s ozone bill would delay some of the EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards deadlines and direct the agency to consider the cost and technological feasibility. Currently, the agency is only directed to consider public health implications.

Olson “will be looking for the best vehicle to move this along. Obviously as a stand-alone bill it’s a little harder,” Kelly said.

Without the energy bill, it’s hard to find other legislative vehicles. On options such as the House Appropriations bill on the Department of the Interior, which includes the EPA, Kelly said it was too soon to say. Olson is focused on the House vote on his bill on Wednesday, not on whatever happens afterward, Kelly said.

“Getting the House to act is the most important priority, and then what the Senate does is a question for senators,” Kelly said.

The Obama administration hasn’t yet issued a veto threat or other statement of administration policy on Olson’s bill, or its Senate companion, sponsored by Sen. Shelly Moore Capito (R-W.Va.). But Sierra Club legislative director Melinda Pierce told Morning Consult she wouldn’t be surprised to see one after the House votes. She expects the bill to pass the House, but with little Democratic support. Three of the bill’s 43 co-sponsors are Democrats: Reps. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.), and Jim Costa (D-Calif.).

Thirteen environmental organizations wrote a letter in April calling Olson’s bill “one of the most irresponsible compilations of attacks on Clean Air Act health standards ever to be introduced in Congress.”

The ozone bill does have support from business interests, though. The National Association of Manufacturers wrote a letter on Tuesday supporting the bill, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce also wrote in support of the bill in May.

Kelly initially said Olson is under no illusions about where Obama will stand on the bill, even though there hasn’t been a veto threat yet.

“We haven’t gotten any indication from the president as to how much he’ll oppose it. We expect him to not love it,” she said.

Kelly said the bill’s opponents are overreacting to a small change to how the EPA develops ozone standards, considering the agency would still be directed to primarily consider public health effects.

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