Report: EPA Unveils Plan To Weaken Air Pollution Regulations

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EPA “attempts to tie its own hands are a transparent effort to benefit industry at the expense of the American people.”

According to Roll Call, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled plans that would “make it harder to regulate air pollution, even as industry groups cheer the overhauls they have long sought.”

  • On Thursday, the EPA “proposed overhauls to its metrics for weighing the public health and environmental benefits of the regulations it writes against the costs for industries to comply with new rules,” wrote Roll Call.
  • Environmental advocates expressed deep concern over this proposal, which would implement President Trump’s 2017 executive order to direct agencies to “lower regulatory burdens on the American people.”
  • EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the proposal “corrects another dishonest accounting method the previous administration used to justify costly, ineffective regulations.” The proposal would ensure that information on the benefits and costs of regulatory decisions are “developed and provided to the public in a consistent and transparent manner,” wrote Roll Call.
  • However, environmental groups see this as another attempt by the Trump administration to “promote polluters’ interests while limiting the EPA’s mandate to protect public health and the environment,” the report continued.

One of the biggest concerns with the new rule is that it would allow the EPA to “disregard indirect benefits of certain clean air rules and allow the administration to argue that the costs of some environmental regulations outweigh the benefits,” according to Roll Call.

  • Hayden Hashimoto, a legal fellow at the Clean Air Task Force said, “The bottom line is that the Trump EPA’s attempts to tie its own hands are a transparent effort to benefit industry at the expense of the American people."
  • In addition, Environmental Defense Fund lead attorney Tomás Carbonell said the EPA was “cooking the books to downplay the benefits” of clean air safeguards and “distorting science,” according to Roll Call.

The new EPA changes, Carbonell continued, would be detrimental to low-income communities and people of color who “are already suffering disproportionately from the harmful impacts of air pollution and would allow the agency to disregard benefits such as fewer premature deaths and fewer childhood asthma attacks in its rulemaking,” the report wrote.

  • Some of the EPA’s former scientific advisers have accused the Trump administration of using inaccurate benefit-cost calculations to roll back Obama administration rules.

Mary Evans, a professor of environmental economics at Claremont McKenna College told Roll Call that the rule proposes to disaggregate benefits into those “targeted and ancillary to the statutory objective of the regulation,” which could mean that direct and indirect benefits are not equally considered.

However, Republicans have long argued for these changes, saying that strict rules are only hurting the industry without even having significant public health benefits.

  • House Energy and Commerce Republicans Greg Walden (OR), Fred Upton (MI), and John Shimkus (IL) said “the proposal will work to increase reliability, accuracy, and usefulness of future cost-benefit analyses of regulations– while ensuring we maintain environmental protections under the Clean Air Act.”
  • Industry groups such as the US Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute also supported the EPA’s proposal.
  • Roll Call reported that Jeff Holmstead, a partner at law firm Bracewell LLP and former head of the EPA air office in the George W. Bush administration, said the EPA “isn't really breaking new ground” with its proposal. He also added that the EPA “is simply binding itself to meet standards for scientific integrity and transparency that have long been in existence” but not always followed.
  • The report stated that Senate Environment and Public Works top Democrat Thomas R. Carper (DE) said “the administration is ‘warping’ the cost-benefit calculations to erode the scientific basis for clean air rules.”

“This is not about improving transparency or ensuring consistency in the regulatory process,” Carper continued. “This is about ensuring EPA can disregard the benefits of reducing air pollution and ignore the real, human costs of increasing it.”

Read the full report here.

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