EPA finalizes cost-benefit rule that could hinder Biden climate actions

January 3, 2021

On December 9, 2020 EPA announced it had finalized its “Benefit-Cost Analyses Procedures,” a major rule on environmental analysis pushed out in the twilight of President Trump’s term and a move that could bolster legal challenges to climate rules ushered in by the incoming Biden administration according to a December 15, E&E News Report.

EPA’s  new rule, proposed in June and finalized December 9th, adds requirements to the cost-benefit analysis for new Clean Air Act rules crafted by EPA, including mandating separate review of targeted benefits versus indirect co-benefits like greenhouse gas emission reductions.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler has said the rule will eliminate the risk of relying too heavily on co-benefits to justify rulemaking, but some experts see the rule as a last-minute, temporary wrench in Biden’s plans to craft stricter standards on issues like climate.

“It seems like it’s designed to set up legal challenges to EPA rules, filed by industry, that argue if one looks only to the targeted benefits … that the statutory provision at issue contemplates, the rule is not justified,” said Jack Lienke, regulatory policy director at New York University’s Institute for Policy Integrity.

In his single term, Trump has managed to scale back enforcement on a slew of key environmental issues, including fuel economy standards for vehicles and methane emissions rules for oil and gas operations.

Environmental advocates have high hopes that Biden will reverse Trump’s rollbacks and get the ball rolling on stricter climate and emissions standards, but many green groups are worried that the incoming administration will inherit multiple obstacles to substantive climate rulemaking — including legal brawls with industry that will be refereed by a more conservative judiciary.

EPA’s cost-benefit rule may be one such stumbling block.

What this means to you
On December 9th EPA finalized a major rule on environmental analysis: Increasing Consistency and Transparency in Considering Benefits and Costs in the Clean Air Act Rulemaking Process. Environmental groups hope Biden will reverse Trump’s rollbacks. EPA’s December finalized cost-benefit rule may be a stumbling block.

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