Climate warnings cut from EPA plan

Drafts detailed greenhouse-gas effects

Warnings about potentially severe consequences of climate change were deleted during a White House review of a plan to weaken curbs on power-plant emissions, according to documents recently released online.

Drafts of the proposal to replace Barack Obama-era restrictions on greenhouse-gas emissions had devoted more than 500 words to highlighting the effects of climate change -- more heat waves, intense hurricanes, heavy rainfall, floods and water pollution. That language was left out when President Donald Trump's administration last month unveiled its final analysis of the Environmental Protection Agency proposal.

Among the abandoned assertions: an acknowledgment that "the climate has continued to change, with new records being set" for global average surface temperatures, Arctic sea ice retreat, carbon dioxide concentrations and sea-level rise.

The administration also scrapped a reference to numerous "major scientific assessments" that "strengthen the case that [greenhouse gases] endanger public health and welfare both for current and future generations."

Internal documents from a White House-led interagency review of the proposal reveal the decision to spike the language but not the rationale for doing so nor who ordered its omission. The documents show the deletions came during last-minute August edits to the plan's regulatory impact analysis.

Trump has expressed skepticism about climate change, once suggesting that global warming was a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. And his administration has a number of high-ranking officials who have questioned the extent to which human activity drives climate change.

"It's clear that EPA decided that it needed to hide any discussion of the harmful impacts of climate change in the regulatory analysis in order to justify, and avoid undermining, the Clean Power Plan rollback," said Amit Narang, a regulatory policy expert with Public Citizen, a consumer-advocacy group.

The initial documents underscore the durability of the government's scientific work -- including that of the career officials who study climate change -- even as the Trump administration seeks to cut research on climate change and whittle regulations aimed at combating it.

The EPA acknowledged revisions during the regulatory review but did not explain why they were made.

"As a result of the interagency review process, a number of changes were made to the proposed ACE rule and its accompanying materials," said EPA spokesman Molly Block, making reference to the Affordable Clean Energy proposal. "EPA looks forward to receiving comment on a variety of these issues during the public comment period."

In the end, the government's final analysis included just 13 specific references to "climate change." The analysis included a slimmed-down reference to the EPA's obligation to regulate emissions, without any talk of the potential for catastrophes.

"In 2009, EPA administrator found that elevated concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere may reasonably be anticipated both to endanger public health and to endanger public welfare. It is these adverse impacts that necessitate EPA regulation" of greenhouse gases from power plants, the final document said. ''Since 2009, other science assessments suggest accelerating trends."

The administration also backed off from a plan to seek public comment on the appropriateness of the EPA's landmark conclusion that greenhouse-gas emissions endanger public health and welfare. That endangerment finding, as it is known, serves as the legal underpinning for a series of regulations designed to combat climate change.

The EPA's acting administrator, Andrew Wheeler, has said he would not reopen the endangerment finding, but conservatives are urging the agency to revisit the issue.

Business on 09/05/2018

Upcoming Events