NOT AGAIN! EPA Will Use Disingenuous Co-Benefits to Justify Forthcoming Climate Plan (sigh)

by William Yeatman on May 31, 2014

in Blog

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President Obama today signaled that his administration will rely on hocus-pocus  “co-benefits” to justify EPA’s forthcoming climate plan for existing power plants.

During his weekly radio address, the President claimed:

“in just the first year that these standards go into effect, up to 100,000 asthma attacks and 2,100 heart attacks will be avoided — and those numbers will go up from there.”

Of course, carbon dioxide is inert. So it doesn’t cause heart attacks. Nor is it an asthma trigger. So what is the President talking about?

In fact, he’s employing an EPA scam,* known as “co-benefits,” by which the agency has justified a number of recent, highly politicized regulations. Basically, he’s saying that his climate plan will cause a shift away from coal, which will result in the reduction of emissions other than greenhouse gases, including particulate matter and nitrogen oxides. These are the emissions (i.e., PM and NOx) the President refers to when he claims his climate plan would prevent 100,000 asthma attacks and 2,100 heart attacks.

There are many reasons that the President’s use of “co-benefits” is wholly inappropriate. For starters, there are entire sections of the Clean Air Act given to the regulation of particulate matter and nitrogen oxides. In fact, the administrator is legally bound to issue national ambient air quality standards for these pollutants, and these standards must be set at a level that is requisite to protect public health with an adequate margin of safety. There is, therefore, neither a public health purpose nor a need for EPA to use a climate plan to regulate particulate matter and nitrogen oxides emissions under the Clean Air Act.

In addition, EPA has demonstrated a troubling propensity for double-counting these “co-benefits.”

Finally, as I discuss here, the science underlying these putative co-benefits is highly suspect.

Rather than militate in favor of the rule, the President’s “co-benefits” sleight of hand speaks volumes about how crummy a deal is the EPA’s climate plan. As I explain here, the regulation would upend electric markets, rendering it one of the costliest, ever. And yet, the preponderance of greenhouse gas emissions come from Asia, so EPA’s climate rule wouldn’t actually impact global temperatures, a fact that has been conceded by no less an authority than EPA administrator Gina McCarthy.

On the one hand, the climate rule carries big costs; on the other, it won’t affect the climate. So what’s a President to do? He relies on an EPA shell game known as “co-benefits.”

*The last time EPA used this trick was the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, a.k.a., the utility MACT. As I’ve noted repeatedly, the mercury “benefits” of that rule accrued to a supposed population of pregnant, subsistence fisherwomen, who consumed hundreds of pounds of self-caught fish, during pregnancy (I’m not kidding). Because the actual purpose of the rule was ridiculous, the agency had to rely on the co-benefits scam.

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