Update:

EPA has not issued a final regulation but this project is not dead.  Rather, the EPA Adminstrator issued a memorandum that asks each EPA office to issue rules that would apply these same notions to its own programs. 

Public Comments on the advanced notice were due on

August 13, 2018

Read the Administrator's Memorandum @ https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2019-05/documents/memorandum_05_13_2019_increasing_consistency_and_transparency_in_considering_benefits_and_costs_in_rulemaking_process.pdf

Public comments on the Administrator's Memorandum are not invited.

 

What’s at Risk and Talking Points

The Trump Administration Rollback Notice 

In this notice EPA invited comments on whether EPA should issue regulations that would provide “consistent and transparent” direction on how EPA should weigh consideration of costs and benefits in making regulatory decisions across agency programs.  EPA is also asking for comment on whether such a regulation should “proscribe specific analytic approaches to quantifying the costs and benefits.” 

This sounds both reasonable and innocent, but it is neither.  Especially when this notice is viewed in concert with the proposed rule titled “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science”, it is clear that the Trump’s EPA intends to go beyond rolling back  regulations.[i]They seek to cripple the agency’s ability to regulate by putting credible science off limits, and with this notice, to distort the analyses that support regulation, so as to hide the benefits of the regulations that are being rolled back.  

This notice contains troubling suggestions concerning the analytic approaches that the EPA might require for cost-benefit analysis.  Cost-benefit is only rarely required by statute. But, since the early 1980s, an executive order has required that major regulations be accompanied by a cost-benefit analysis.  The EPA regularly accompanies its regulations with such an analysis.  A well done cost-benefit analysis can help the public as well as the EPA understand the value and the costs of regulatory actions.  These analyses are performed according to peer reviewed guidelines issued by OMB and by EPA.

Generally, the benefits of EPA’s regulations exceed the costs – a fact that is inconvenient for an administration that seeks to repeal regulations, but it is documented by OMB each year.[ii] 

The notice asks for comment on several issues that are clearly designed to reduce the reported benefits of EPA regulation.  These include, whether EPA should report benefits that are below regulatorily permissible levels. Although the science tells us otherwise, the notice suggests that EPA would treat levels set in previous regulations as thresholds below which no benefit would be gained.

The notice also asks whether EPA should report the benefits achieved as co-benefits of achieving reductions of a targeted pollutant. For example, actions taken to reduce emissions of mercury, arsenic, and other toxic pollutants from power plants under the Mercury and Air Toxics Rule, also reduced emissions of pollutants that form fine particles.  Most of the calculated benefits for that rule came from the particle pollution reductions because the data and methodology for calculating particle pollution benefits is well established.  EPA does not have the data nor the methodology to calculate most of the benefits from reductions in the targeted pollutants. 

The notice suggests that the co-benefits should not be counted at all.  But, of course, the co-benefits are real and would flow directly from a given rule, whether or not it is the original intent of the rule.  But Trump’s EPA may not want you to know about it. 

EPA also routinely counts the co-costs of its regulations.  For example, the risks of driving lighter weight cars to meet fuel efficiency standards. EPA does not suggest that co-costs not be counted, even if EPA changes its methods and stops counting co-benefits.

Thus we see that in the name of consistency and transparency, EPA is contemplating hiding from the public the true benefits of environmental regulations. 

The notice also asked for suggestions as to how costs and benefits should be considered in setting regulatory standards. This is curious as most environmental laws lay out the factors that must be considered in setting standards.  Some provisions are intended to protect public health, others to protect wildlife or scenic values.  As the notice says, some but not all, require that costs be considered in setting a standard, but not necessarily in the same way.  They may require that regulations not impose an undue burden or that they be economically achievable.  Others must be set to protect public health without regard to costs.  Imposing on the EPA a uniform protocol for considering costs and benefits in setting standards would necessarily run afoul of the authorizing laws in the name of “consistency”.

EPA received overwhelmingly negative comments in response to this proposal.  In May of 2019, the Administrator issued a memorandum to the EPA Assistant Administrators asking each of them to develop "reforms" for considering costs and benefits in actions under their purview.  

There Is A Lot That We Can Do

Even though the Administrator is not asking for your comments on his  memorandum  that should not stop you letting your views be known  The upcoming November elections give us a potent opportunity to let our elected leaders know that public protections are important to us and how we vote.   Please consider writing to your members of Congress (your representative in the House of Representatives and your two senators).  Many of them up for reelection.  A template for comments to members of Congress is on page 23 of Save EPA’s “A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump De-Regulatory Agenda,” which is available to read or download at the following link: http://saveepaalums.info/Resistance+Guide.  The following links help you send your comments to your members:

Countable lets you identify your members of Congress based on your address and then send a message to all three members at once. Its link is https://www.countable.us/.

If you prefer to write your members of Congress separately, you can go to https://whoismyrepresentative.com/orhttps://www.usa.gov/elected-officials/ to find your members' email contact forms or snail mail addresses.

Also consider letting your state and local officials know that you are concerned about this issue by writing or calling them or speaking at town hall meetings.  In the absence of federal leadership, it is vitally important that states and local governments fill the void.

Other ways of raising the public and political profile of this rollback include:

Getting involved with local activists who are encouraging federal, state or local action.

Writing letters to the editor and even op-eds in your local papers.  Letters to the editor should be fairly brief.

Organizing or participating in campaigns to make phone calls or write letters to members of Congress. Some campaigns ask participants to make phone calls to radio stations during call-in days or take other actions to spread the word.

Spreading the word via social media.  Tag your elected officials so they know how you feel.

Joining or organizing demonstrations.

Talking to your friends, colleagues and neighbors and encouraging them to comment and otherwise join in this effort.

VOTE!

Links for More Information

Comments on the Advanced Notice from Save EPA and the Environmental Protection Network : https://www.environmentalprotectionnetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/EPN-Save-EPA-Comments-CBA.pdf

"Denying the Health Benefits of Pollution Reduction", Harvard Environmental Law Program, 2018, http://environment.law.harvard.edu/2018/06/denying-health-benefits-pollution-reduction/

From the Center for Progressive Reform:  http://www.progressivereform.org/CPRBlog.cfm?idBlog=9223F488-D405-795B-845443E5E91AED30

Qian Di, MSLingzhen Dai, ScDYun Wang, PhD; et al., "Association of short-term Exposure to Air Pollution with Mortality in Older Adults", Journal of the American Medical Association, December 26, 2017. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2667069

“Can EPA Maintain Its Mission?”, Harvard Environmental Law Program, 2018. http://environment.law.harvard.edu/2018/02/epa-reverse-mission/

________________________ 

ENDNOTES

[i]See: Restricting Use of Science Under Guise of Providing Transparency. http://saveepaalums.info/guise+of+transparency

[ii]Office of Management and Budget,2017 Draft Report to Congress on the Benefits and Costs of Federal Regulations and Agency Compliance with the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act, https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/draft_2017_cost_benefit_report.pdf

 

 

 

 

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