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Trump administration hobbles air pollution control

Rule makes it harder for the EPA to reduce emissions, including greenhouse gases

by Cheryl Hogue
December 10, 2020

Photo shows two interlinked, toothed gears, one labeled with the word "benefits," the other with the word "costs."
Credit: Shutterstock

The Trump Environmental Protection Agency is finalizing a regulation that will make it harder for the agency to reduce air pollution in the future.

The regulation, unveiled Dec. 9, will trammel the EPA by changing how the agency calculates the benefits and costs of controlling air pollution, experts say. This move, a priority for the Trump administration for years, “provides more consistent and transparent procedures to provide benefit cost analyses” used to substantiate the need for regulations under the Clean Air Act, the EPA says.

The US chemical industry’s major lobbying group, the American Chemistry Council (ACC), says it welcomes the changes. “The rule will improve decision-making as to where to allocate resources while supporting capital investment that drives economic growth,” the ACC says in a statement. Many chemical manufacturing facilities are heavily regulated under the Clean Air Act.

Others strongly criticize the move.

“The EPA’s political leaders are directing the agency’s staff to ignore benefits and undervalue human health,” Rachel Cleetus, policy director for the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, an advocacy organization, says in a statement. This, in turn, will make it “cheaper and easier for powerful industries to pollute our air with impunity,” she says. “This new rule has no scientific, public health, economic or legal justification, and is a sharp break with past precedent.”

Cleetus and others, including Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware, the top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, are calling on the incoming administration of president-elect Joe Biden to withdraw the rule. That process could take 18 months to 2 years. This would delay any Biden administration efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act, says the Environmental Working Group, an activist organization.



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