EPA revokes Trump rule that eased limits on air pollution

Federal agency walked back rule after finding it limits ability to use ‘the best available science’

Louise Boyle
Senior Climate Correspondent, New York
Thursday 13 May 2021 21:37

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The Biden administration is overturning a Trump-era rule that loosened how the Environmental Protection Agency evaluates air pollution.

In a statement on Thursday, the agency said it reviewed the policy brought in last year by the former administration and found it imposed procedural restrictions and other requirements that would limit EPA’s ability to use “the best available science” in developing regulations under the Clean Air Act.

In a statement, EPA Administrator Michael Regan said the agency “has critical authority under the Clean Air Act to protect the public from harmful air pollution, among other threats to our health”.

He called the Trump-era rule “unnecessary and misguided” and said the Biden administration was committed to upholding the science.

“We will continue to fix the wrongs of the past and move forward aggressively to deliver on President Biden’s clear commitment to protecting public health and the environment,” he added.

On his first day in the White House, President Joe Biden signed an executive order which instructed the EPA to review all the policies and regulations from the Trump years.

During his time in the White House, Mr Trump oversaw the rollback of dozens of environmental and climate regulations and policies. Andrew Wheeler, the former EPA Administrator under Mr Trump, said in December that their policy made the rule-making process under the Clean Air Act more transparent.

Environmentalists decried the decision saying it would have meant looser emissions restrictions for power plants, motor vehicles and other polluters.

The EPA review, announced on Thursday, found that the “Benefit-Cost” rule, which was green-lit in December, should be revoked entirely.

It said that the Benefit-Cost Rule imposed broad restrictions and requirements on when and how the agency must conduct benefit-cost analyses (BCA) for Clean Air Act rule making but didn’t explain why the requirements were necessary.

The Trump policy was unnecessary to carry out the Clean Air Act, because EPA already conducts cost-benefits analyses for clean air rules, the agency said.

Following the decision, American Lung Association President and CEO Harold Wimmer said in a statement: “Today’s step to rescind this dangerous rule demonstrates EPA’s commitment to following sound science and prioritising public health.

“The original rule, which would have deliberately discounted the health benefits of air pollution standards, would have artificially reduced the ‘value’ of air pollution cleanup, thereby undermining future limits on air pollution. We are very heartened to see this administration recognise the real value of cleaning up dangerous pollutants that harm health.”

Rich Nolan, president and CEO of the National Mining Association, told the AP the Trump-era rule corrected a previous EPA bias that often was “improperly used to target the coal industry through unjustifiable regulations that imposed tremendous compliance costs that significantly outweighed the environmental benefits”.

This interim final rule will become effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register after the EPA considers public comments.

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