13 States Oppose EPA’s Plan to Stop Evaluating Public Health and Climate Change Costs

A new proposal prevents the Agency from evaluating co-benefits and public health

August 14, 2018
Contact: Christopher Gray

Washington, D.C.—A coalition of 13 Attorneys General and State Agencies led by New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to abandon its proposal to change how the EPA weighs the costs and benefits of proposed pollution controls on regulated industries, public health and the environment. The AGs made their case in a comment letter submitted before yesterday’s deadline. 

The AGs’ comments come in response to an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) that could radically alter the way the EPA evaluates the public costs and benefits of its regulatory actions. Based on how the administration has approached regulatory matters to date, there is widespread concern that the EPA is looking to put greater weight on industry costs of compliance than on public benefits gained from pollution controls.

“The Trump EPA’s ‘cost-benefit’ proposal is a classic example of a solution in search of a problem,” Attorney General Underwood said. “EPA says its proposal would increase consistency and transparency in its decision making –but there’s absolutely no evidence in the notice that previous EPA’s analyses lacked consistency or transparency. Environmental and health protections have consistently proven their enormous value to New Yorkers and all Americans. EPA shouldn’t be searching for ways to cook its books to favor polluters over the public.”

Among the many provisions contained in the proposal is the EPA’s announced intention to discontinue its consideration of the social cost of carbon pollution, which the Agency now views as overly burdensome to industry. This means the EPA will stop calculating the full range of public health and environmental costs associated with climate change. The AGs argue in their comment letter that the changes that the EPA is proposing to its regulatory review process are “unnecessary, ill-conceived, and unworkable.”

"In promoting its 'deregulatory' agenda, the Trump Administration has demonstrated, again and again, that it is more interested in reducing industry's costs than identifying and crediting society-wide benefits that flow from common sense health, safety and environmental protections," said David J. Hayes, Executive Director of the State Energy and Environmental Impact Center. "State attorneys general will fight against the Administration's obvious effort to undermine the rigorous cost-benefit review process that has been in place since Ronald Reagan's Presidency."

Attorneys General of California, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia joined New York in submitting the comments. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection also joined in submitting the comments.  


President Ronald Reagan's Executive Order 12291, issued in 1981, formally required that the federal government complete cost-benefit reviews prior to finalizing significant rulemakings. President Bill Clinton's Executive Order 12866 built on this foundation. It laid out Principles of Regulation, including the obligation to undertake disciplined cost-benefit analyses of major regulations, that remain in place today. Over the past several decades, professionals in the Office of Management and Budget have worked with federal agencies to ensure that cost-benefit reviews are fact-based, rigorous, and transparent.

The Trump Administration has taken a number of steps to undermine the cost-benefit review process by, in particular, discounting the benefits associated with regulatory requirements in the environmental arena. By way of example, the Administration has disbanded the interagency technical group that had developed a social cost of carbon metric to use in evaluating costs and benefits of carbon-related rulemakings. Acting in an ad hoc, non-scientific fashion, EPA initiated an 85 percent reduction in the cost value it assigns to each ton of carbon pollution, reducing the figure from an Obama-era $36 per ton of carbon dioxide to just $5 per ton today.

On June 7, 2018 the EPA issued an ANPR that ostensibly seeks to fine-tune long-standing cost-benefit analytics. In the press release announcing the ANPR, however, former Administrator Scott Pruitt acknowledged that the Administration is pursuing an agenda to revise the social cost of carbon by using "prior and best practices" and to take "a different approach to analyzing co-benefits" associated with rulemakings – an approach that apparently would turn a blind eye to major health and environmental co-benefits associated with regulatory action. 

ABOUT THE STATE ENERGY & ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT CENTER: The State Energy & Environmental 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 advance clean energy, climate change, and environmental values and protections. It was launched in August 2017 with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies. For more information, visit http://www.law.nyu.edu/centers/state-impact.