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US EPA reverses block on tougher air pollution rules

Agency says Trump-era regulation hinders use of best available science

by Britt E. Erickson
May 14, 2021

Smokestacks billowing vapor from a coal fired power plant.
Credit: Shutterstock
The US Environmental Protection Agency has nixed a Trump-era rule that disregarded indirect benefits of air pollution controls.

The US Environmental Protection Agency has scrapped a Dec. 9 rule that modified how the costs and benefits of controlling air pollution are calculated. The agency claims that the Trump-era rule restricted the agency from using the best available science when developing regulations under the Clean Air Act.

The EPA also says that the procedures required under the rule resulted in net benefit calculations “that are misleading and inconsistent with economic best practices.”

“Revoking this unnecessary and misguided rule is proof positive of this Administration’s commitment to science,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan, says in a statement.

The Trump administration claimed that the rule provided “more consistent and transparent” cost-benefit analyses used to justify air pollution regulations, but critics say it ignored benefits at the expense of public health.

In particular, the rule directed the EPA to ignore indirect benefits, such as the reduction of pollutants not directly targeted by a regulation. The rule was prompted by air pollution standards adopted under the Obama administration that considered indirect benefits of mercury pollution controls, such as lower emissions of particulate matter.

The American Chemistry Council, which represents the chemical industry, supported the Trump administration’s rule. “Ensuring a clear, consistent and correct appraisal of benefits and costs in the regulatory process is a commonsense idea with bipartisan backing over four decades,” the ACC says in a statement.

Environmental and public health groups welcome the EPA’s move to rescind the rule.

“The original rule, which would have deliberately discounted the health benefits of air pollution standards, would have artificially reduced the ‘value’ of air pollution cleanup, thereby undermining future limits on air pollution,” Harold Wimmer, president and CEO of the American Lung Association, says in a statement.



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