EPA Should Withdraw Proposal to 'Cook the Books' in Effort to Gut Clean Air Protections

August 3, 2020
Shira Langer, slanger@edf.org, (202) 572-3254

(Washington, D.C. – August 3, 2020) Today, EDF and other health and environmental organizations filed comments forcefully denouncing a recent proposal by EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler that would attack clean air protections by ignoring or downplaying their benefits.

Wheeler’s proposal, which was issued on June 11, would impose harmful and burdensome regulatory requirements restricting how EPA evaluates the benefits and costs of major Clean Air Act protections such as health-protective standards for soot and smog pollution, limits on industrial sources of hazardous air pollution like benzene and mercury, and safeguards against chemical disasters.

“Administrator Wheeler’s proposal is a backdoor attack on our nation’s clear air laws,” said Ben Levitan, senior attorney at Environmental Defense Fund. “For nearly fifty years, the Clean Air Act has delivered dramatic reductions in air pollution — saving lives, improving public health, and enhancing the quality of life in communities across America. Now, during a global health crisis, the Trump administration wants to cook the books in an attempt to justify its destructive rollbacks. We will spare no effort in opposing this flatly unlawful and deeply harmful proposal.”

In detailed legal and technical comments, EDF and its allies point out that the proposal suffers from fatal legal flaws and “is riddled with arbitrary and burdensome requirements that threaten to make it more difficult for EPA to develop and justify clean air protections.”

If finalized, the proposal would create higher evidentiary hurdles for benefits than for costs and limit and distort EPA’s consideration of public health studies. Like Wheeler’s separate censored science plan, the proposal could also prevent EPA from considering the best available science when making decisions about health and environmental protections.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Clean Air Task Force, Environmental Law and Policy Center, Environmental Protection Network, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Union of Concerned Scientists joined EDF on the comments. EDF also submitted a community letter signed by 15 public health, environmental justice, racial justice, and environmental organizations opposing Wheeler’s proposal. EPA has indicated that it intends to issue a final rule this fall.

# # #

Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org), a leading international nonprofit organization, creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. EDF links science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships. Connect with us on EDF Voices, Twitter and Facebook.