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August 4, 2020
Contact: Tom Lalley

Eighteen State AGs Oppose EPA Proposal That Would Discount Benefits, Inflate Costs of Clean Air Act Standards

Agency’s plan to alter cost-benefit analyses would weaken critical clean air standards at a time when millions of Americans have been infected with the COVID19 respiratory virus.

Washington, D.C. New York Attorney General Letitia James led a coalition of 18 state attorneys general in filing comments yesterday opposing a proposed rule from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that would reduce protections for public health and the environment by establishing a one-size-fits-all methodology for cost-benefit analyses in Clean Air Act rulemakings. The AGs called the EPA's proposal “unnecessary, contrary to law, arbitrary and unworkable,” and urged the agency to abandon the effort and instead conduct cost-benefit analyses “in conformance with well-established processes the agency has successfully employed for many years.” The AGs warned that the EPA's purported goal of imposing a uniform cost-benefit analysis for all Clean Air Act rulemakings unlawfully ignores the different approaches prescribed by the statute for its various programs, and said the proposal is based on a “false premise that uniformity across these disparate provisions is lawful and possible.” The AGs also faulted the proposal's "impracticable and unlawful" approach to co-benefits of regulations, and its "woefully inadequate” discussion of greenhouse gas emissions and the social cost of carbon.
“As our country is ravaged by a respiratory pandemic, the Trump Administration is rigging important calculations to inexplicably exclude life-saving environmental benefits like limiting particulate matter pollution.” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “Once again, human life doesn't seem to factor into the equation when the Trump Administration has its way. Let’s be clear, it’s our low-income communities — already disproportionately at risk of serious health consequences from coronavirus — who will suffer first and worst under the proposed cost-benefit analyses.”
In particular, the AGs called out the EPA for only briefly mentioning the co-benefits of regulations, which the agency has taken into account for decades and courts have specifically required the agency to consider. The AGs emphasized that failing to consider co-benefits would “not only flout fundamental economic precepts but would violate EPA’s statutory duties and undercut the agency’s core mission to protect human health and the environment.” The AGs cautioned that the proposal’s language appears “designed to tilt the balance of consideration to only those benefits that are directly related” to the Clean Air provision that underlies a rulemaking — even if the rule would provide other Clean Air Act benefits.
The AGs also criticized the proposal for not addressing the cost of greenhouse gas emissions, emphasizing that the omission is “all the more striking given recent rulemaking incorporating an inappropriate social cost of carbon.” Last month, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California vacated the Bureau of Land Management’s attempted repeal of the Waste Prevention Rule, in part because the bureau relied on a flawed cost-benefit analysis that undervalued the social cost of carbon. In that case, the court said that “an agency simply cannot construct a model that confirms a preordained outcome while ignoring a model that reflects the best science available.”
The AGs also highlighted a recent report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office that found the Trump administration has consistently lowballed the costs that carbon pollution will inflict on future generations; denounced the agency’s refusal to use a scientifically credible methodology endorsed by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; and noted the “explicit condemnation of EPA’s methodology by our nation’s leading scientists.”
The attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Washington, D.C. joined AG James in submitting the comments.


About the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center
The State Energy & Environmental Impact Center (State Impact Center) is a non-partisan Center at the NYU School of Law that is dedicated to helping state attorneys general fight against regulatory rollbacks and advocate for clean energy, climate change, and environmental values and protections. For more information, visit our website