By Cass Sunstein
Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed, after White House review, an ozone regulation very similar to one that President Barack Obama personally blocked some three years earlier. On both the right and the left, and in news stories as well, the new proposal is being portrayed as an intensely political reversal: Unburdened by the prospect of reelection, the president is said to be following his instincts, appealing to his base and ignoring the complaints of the business community, to which he capitulated in 2011.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The real lesson of the controversy over ozone regulation involves not politics, but the importance of sensible environmental priority-setting — and the distinctive requirements of the Clean Air Act. (Disclosure: I was Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in 2011, and at the president’s direction, I wrote the return letter to the EPA, explaining that he did not support finalizing the ozone rule.)