According to The New York Times, the Environmental Protection Agency intends to change its calculation methodology for future health complications and death as a result of air pollution. The shift would remove thousands of deaths from the E.P.A.’s official predictions and justify the plan to rollback a key climate change initiative, five individuals close to the agency’s plans say.
The E.P.A. initially forecasted an additional 1,400 premature deaths each year as a result of striking down the Obama-era Clean Power Plan. But the new calculations would dramatically reduce the number of deaths predicted and make it easier for the Trump administration to defend its Affordable Clean Energy proposal.
The agency has struggled to show how the Affordable Clean Energy rule would offer more benefits than the Clean Power Plan. Experts say that the new calculation method has never been peer-reviewed and is far from scientific, but it fits the Trump administration’s agenda to strike down air pollution regulation.
As the newspaper notes, “It is not uncommon for a presidential administration to use accounting changes to make its regulatory decisions look better than the rules of its predecessors.
“ But the proposed new modeling method is unusual because it relies on unfounded medical assumptions and discards more than a decade of peer-reviewed E.P.A. methods for understanding the health hazards linked to the fine particulate matter produced by burning fossil fuels.”
The new model supposes that there are few benefits to cleaner air than that which is required by law, meaning that, on paper, there would be far fewer premature deaths as a result of air pollution as long as levels of air pollution are lower than the legal threshold.
However, experts say, there is no “safe” level of air pollution.
“Particulate matter is extremely harmful and it leads to a large number of premature deaths,” said NYU environmental law expert Richard Revesz. He said that the new approach to air pollution would be a “monumental departure” from that used by the E.P.A. under past Democratic and Republican administrations alike.