Cooking the Books

By Liz Perera, Sierra Club

The Clean Power Plan protects the health of all Americans. Now that a date for its repeal has been officially announced, we are also learning about the crooked strategy this administration has employed to demolish this common-sense policy.

Last week, Politico reported that the Trump Administration will justify the CPP repeal by neglecting basic mathematics. Under President Obama’s administration, the EPA had estimated that, by 2030, the Clean Power Plan would prevent 90,000 asthma attacks and up to 3,600 premature deaths annually. Additionally, the plan would provide $20 billion of annual climate benefits and between $14 billion to $34 billion of annual health benefits by 2030. While annual CPP expenses are estimated to amount to $7.3 billion to $8.8 billion in 2030, the benefits far outweigh the costs.

Leaving aside the health and climate improvement potential of the CPP, the Trump Administration has concocted a way to work around the economic advantages of the plan: change the numbers. First, the EPA will reconsider the social cost of carbon, the global metric used to calculate the benefits of reducing carbon emissions. Countries around the world calculate the social cost of carbon metric by including global climate and global economic models. The CPP’s economic benefits are calculated on that same, internationally recognized standard. However, Trump is planning on breaking from the herd and removing the worldwide impacts from the US calculations.

Even more frightening, they will also be cooking the books by ignoring health benefits. Trump’s EPA will count far fewer health benefits that could have come from reducing carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. That includes premature deaths, asthma hospitalization, and heart attacks. According to Politico:

“Taken together, the sources say, the recalculations eliminate tens of billions of dollars of the rule’s benefits, which Obama’s EPA had contended would outweigh the costs of enforcing a faster shift away from coal-fired power. The new numbers could be meant to aid EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s legal case for scrapping the rule.”

Lastly, EPA is artificially inflating its estimates of the Clean Power Plan’s costs through a subtle accounting trick. In calculating these costs, the agency leaves out the reduced fuel expenditures and other savings that power companies would achieve from energy efficiency investments, which are expected to increase significantly under the program. Instead of considering these savings as reduced costs–which they are–EPA shifts these to the benefits side of the ledger. This allows the agency to tell the public that the Clean Power Plan’s costs are dramatically higher than they actually would reality.

We already knew Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt reject public health science, but this smearing of the Clean Power Plan’s massive public benefits shows they reject basic math, too. The Trump Administration’s assault on the Clean Power Plan is about one thing and one thing only: helping corporate polluters profit.

Originally posted here.