EPA Advances Smart Regulation with Benefit-Cost and PM NAAQS Actions
Posted December 15, 2020
Let’s make a couple of points from last week’s EPA actions – one that will bring transparency to some of the agency’s rulemaking processes and another that leaves in place effective standards for microscopic soot.
Transparency first. The goal in EPA’s new benefit-cost rule is pretty straight-forward: Americans should be able to judge whether the benefits of future Clean Air Act regulation are justified by potential costs to society. The new rule will help by requiring that future regulation under the act must be written using sound analyses, where data to evaluate environmental, scientific and economic impacts be transparent and replicable.
Many of the natural gas and oil industry’s opponents reject bringing cost-accountability to the development of regulation. Many of them also subscribe to a more-is-better federal regulatory approach – which gets us to point No. 2.
The agency’s decision to let stand existing, effective Particulate Matter (PM) National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) contrasts with the notion that more federal regulation is necessarily better. It took some courage for EPA to say, basically, that current standards are working and will be allowed to continue working.
Industry supports a smart, common-sense regulatory approach that protects communities, workers and the environment while also allowing the safe and responsible energy production needed to power a modern economy. EPA’s actions do that.
EPA’s new rule provides the basis for rational examination of future regulation under the Clean Air Act – and specifically, whether the proposal’s intended benefits justify the societal cost. Americans need energy production and environmental protection, so requiring EPA to “show its work” in crafting regulation should strengthen accountability and efficiency, as well as the overall integrity of rulemaking.
“Up to now there have been no regulations to hold us, the EPA, accountable to a standardized process and guarantee the public can now see how those calculations informed decisions,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler told The Hill newspaper.
The goal is ever-improving air quality, supported by smart regulation. Frank Macchiarola, API senior vice president of policy, economics and regulatory affairs:
“Strengthening the consistency and transparency of rulemakings is a significant step forward for Clean Air Act provisions and is critical for continuing improvements in U.S. air quality. This policy will help protect public health and the environment cost-effectively as we continue to reduce emissions and invest in innovative technologies while delivering affordable, reliable energy.”
EPA reviewed scientific evidence and determined that current PM NAAQS are protective of public health and the environment. EPA found that since 2000, the U.S. has significantly reduced emissions that can contribute to PM, ozone and the deposit of acids – including an 88% drop in sulfur dioxide and a 61% decrease in nitrogen oxides.
While some called for more stringent standards, EPA’s decision to stick with existing standards was consistent with the recommendation of the agency’s independent Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, which voted 5-1 to retain the current standards. Macchiarola,:
“Under existing standards, the U.S. has made remarkable progress in reducing emissions and improving air quality. Thanks to cleaner fuels and industry action, we have the cleanest air in half a century, and with smart regulations and continued innovation, we can build on this progress while delivering affordable, reliable energy around the world.”
More context for EPA’s decision is seen in the graphic below, showing that a 71% aggregate decline in common air pollutant emissions has occurred at the same time there has been growth in population, the economy and other categories:
Jefferson County (Colorado) Commissioner Libby Szabo: “It is so important that all Americans no matter where they are, have the ability to breathe clean air. … By looking at the outcomes it is obvious the protocols are working. We have some of the lowest particulate matter levels in the world. That is something to praise.”
Chad Whiteman, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Global Energy Institute: “Across decades of planning and investment, businesses have worked with EPA and their state partners to lower ambient concentrations of particulates and other criteria pollutants. These emissions reductions have made U.S. air quality among the cleanest in the world, and occurred while the U.S. economy, population, and energy use has steadily grown—undoubtedly a testament to successful collaboration between EPA, states, and industry to develop and adopt new emissions control technologies and practices in a sound, cost-effective manner.”
Rachel Jones, National Association of Manufacturers: “As creators and users of the technologies that are vital to reducing emissions, manufacturers invest billions of dollars annually to protect air quality and have enabled remarkable improvements. … We are focused on building the future Americans deserve – one that is cleaner, more efficient and environmentally sustainable.”
About The Author
Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Previously, Mark was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor at an assortment of newspapers. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela have two grown children and six grandchildren.
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