Deadline for Public Comments on this Rollback Notice

Comments were due on August 13, 2018

Read the Notice @ https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/06/13/2018-12707/increasing-consistency-and-transparency-in-considering-costs-and-benefits-in-the-rulemaking-process

 Save EPA joined with the Environmental Protection Network to submit comments.  You can read our these comments @ https://www.environmentalprotectionnetwork.org/cost-benefit-analysis/

What’s at Risk, How to Comment and Talking Point

Trump Administration Rollback Notice

In this notice EPA is inviting 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 for the public the true benefits of environmental regulations. 

The notice also asks 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”.

Suggested Talking Points

The Trump administration is in the midst of attempting to roll back significant achievements in environmental protection that EPA has made in the past.  Hiding the benefits of the regulations that they are rolling back is not “transparency”. Calling it that is deceptive.

When the science clearly indicates that there are benefits to reducing a pollutant to levels below what is required by current regulation, that information needs to be provided to decision makers and to the public.[iii]

If a regulation reduces pollutants beyond the targeted pollutants, the benefits of the additional pollution reductions (co-benefits) is important and relevant information that must be provided to decisionmakers and the public.

On the face of it, refusing to provide benefit information for co-benefits but including the co-costs of a regulation quite obviously skews the analysis to make the regulation appear less beneficial than it really is. 

The Trump administration presents “consistency” in the use of benefit and cost information to establish standards across regulatory programs as a useful goal.  There is no obvious reason why that would be so. The various programs have different purposes, different characteristics, and, in fact, the statutory authority for the various programs, lay out the appropriate criteria that each program must use and they are not the same.

For more suggested talking points, see comments submitted jointly by Save EPA and the Environmental Protection Network on August 13, 2018 at https://www.environmentalprotectionnetwork.org/cost-benefit-analysis/

There Is More That You Can Do

 It would be great if well-reasoned, fact-based comments were enough to win the day, but in today's deregulatory environment, raising the political stakes of regulatory rollbacks is crucial to stopping or slowing them down.  Submitting comments is a good first step. For rules that are particularly important to you, please consider taking one or more of the following steps, too. These methods can help to mobilize public opinion and spur elected leaders to fight the destructive changes that the Trump Administration is promoting.

Write to your members of Congress and other elected officials.  Let them know your concerns and ask them to weigh in on this rollback and speak out publicly in favor EPA’s existing statements on this issue.  These links make it easy to write your members of Congress (your representative in the House of Representatives and your two senators).  If you're willing to register with Countable, this link -- https://www.countable.us/ -- allows you to identify your members of Congress and send a message to all three at once.  Or, you can write them separately -- you can use https://whoismyrepresentative.com/ or https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials/ to find your members' email contact forms or snail mail addresses.

Let your state officials know that you are concerned about this issue.  Write to your elected leaders, get involved with local activists who are encouraging local or state action.  Voice your concern and encouragement in the media, social media, at local meetings, and at every opportunity.  In the absence of federal leadership, it is vitally important that states and local governments fill the void.

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

Organize or participate in campaigns to make phone calls or write letters to members of Congress and make phone calls to radio stations during call-in days, or take other actions to spread the word.

Inform your local officials about these issues and ask them to make a public statement or submit comments on a proposed rollback if your jurisdiction has a stake in these issues. Bring up these issues at town hall meetings.

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

Join or organize demonstrations.

Talk to your friends, colleagues and neighbors and encourage them to comment and otherwise join in this effort.

Vote.

Links For More Information

"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

[iii]T.H,Chan School of Public Health, Harvard University,“Short-term exposure to low levels of air pollution linked with premature death among U.S. seniors”, December 26, 2017 https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/air-pollution-premature-death-u-s-seniors/

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