In September 2011, he decided to pull back an EPA proposal to limit ozone emissions linked to smog, on the grounds that it would hurt the economy and the government would revisit the issue in 2013 anyway. The business community praised the move, while environmentalists said it was irresponsible.
The administration also has been criticized by some environmentalists for not moving to create new wilderness areas, in which development and energy extraction would be barred. Only Congress can designate wilderness but the president can bestow similar protections by creating national monuments through the 1906 Antiquities Act.
“It’s not something they’re making a priority,” said Heidi McIntosh, associate director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. She said administration officials have been unwilling to overrule the objections of state and local officials on several key land-use issues.
Barring a last-minute development, the current Congress will be the first since 1966 to fail to designate a single wilderness area. Obama has recently declared a few national monuments based on their historic or cultural significance, including Colorado’s Chimney Rock, and has forged private-public partnerships to preserve working landscapes in states such as Florida and Kansas.