Trump Admin’s New Clean Air Rule Could Limit Future Pollution Regulations


The new rule would relegate co-benefit analysis to a separate document, decreasing the apparent savings of any new rule.

The Hill reports that on June 4, the Environmental Protection Agency released a proposal that alters how the Agency would compile its cost-benefit analysis for future rules related to the Clean Air Act.

  • The Hill explains that the Environmental Protection Agency in 2011 estimated that “the Clean Air Act would prevent 230,000 early deaths between 1990 and this year.”
  • When it releases a new rule related to the Clean Air Act, the Agency accompanies it with a cost-benefit analysis to justify the rule. The Hill writes that this can include “weighing lives saved from reduced air pollution while monetizing the benefits of fighting climate change globally as well as assessing regulatory impacts like job loss and increased costs.”
  • The Agency’s new proposal changes how so-called co-benefits are reported. Co-benefits are those impacts a rule would effect beyond the Agency’s intentions. For example, a mercury regulation might by necessity also limit the production of other pollutants.
  • Under the proposed rule change, the Agency would no longer include co-benefits in its primary cost-benefit analysis for a given rule, instead relegating co-benefits to a separate document. Administrator Andrew Wheeler said that co-benefits “cannot be used to justify the rule[s]” of the Agency and that the change will correct “another dishonest accounting method the previous administration used to justify costly, ineffective regulations.”
  • The Hill states that by excluding co-benefits from the central analysis, “A rule that [saved America] $90 billion under the Obama administration would now cost them $4 million to $6 million under the Trump administration analysis,” even without any changes to the pollution regulations.
  • If a cost-benefit analysis suggests that an Environmental Protection Agency rule costs money rather than saves money, that rule can become “ripe for court challenge.”
  • For example, a major coal company issued a suit against the Agency at the end of May, the Hill reports.
  • Critics have accused the Agency of attempting to hamstring future administrations’ environmental policies. Groups such as the Sierra Club promised to fight the proposal.
  • Industry groups, such as the American Petroleum Institute and American Chemistry Council, praised the rule for “de-mystifty[ing] and standardiz[ing]” the Agency’s rulemaking process.

Amit Narang, a regulatory policy advocate for Public Citizen, a “nonprofit consumer advocacy organization” that the Hill describes as “left-leaning,” said,

What they’ve done is essentially manipulate and rig the cost-benefit analysis so that when EPA in the future gets back to their mission of protecting the environment and fighting climate change it will be much harder to justify their rules.

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