Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is working to distort the way it measures the benefits of some of the agency’s most impactful policies, regulations that safeguard human health by limiting air pollution. The primary beneficiary of such distortion? The coal industry.
When the government evaluates the health and financial benefits of clean air, the calculation typically incorporates the number of lives saved and the scale of reduced health impacts thanks to reducing pollution — also known as “co-benefits.” Incorporating these factors into a cost-benefit analysis forms the very foundation upon which many environmental protections are based.
But now, experts warn the EPA is opening the door to industry challenges to these clean air rules by changing the way it evaluates the long-accepted science on the risk of particulate matter — microscopic particles polluting the air that are linked to increased heart attacks, strokes, and respiratory disease.
The agency may also be laying the groundwork, experts say, for using these “biased and misleading” calculations in other policy contexts. That fear was stoked by a new EPA memo released this week, ushering in a formal process to change the way the agency calculates its cost-benefit analysis across a slew of issues, from water pollution to pesticides. [Continue reading…]