EPA Messes With Texas Scientist; EPA Fails Miserably

Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) received a gentle reminder not to mess with Texas, when Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) Chairman Bryan Shaw once more drew attention to EPA’s dubious health claims associated with President Obama’s so-called “Clean Power Plan.”

In a letter addressed to Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, Shaw explains that, contrary to assertions made by EPA officials, carbon dioxide does not threaten respiratory health at existing or anticipated levels. To support this claim, Shaw cites an EPA document, which states, “Greenhouse gases (GHGs), at both current and projected atmospheric concentrations, are not expected to pose exposure risks on human respiratory systems…”

However, EPA has managed to use anticipated respiratory health benefits as justification for their costly carbon regulation. The health benefits cited in the regulatory impact analysis (RIA) of the regulation are derived not from a reduction in GHGs, but rather from other pollutants that are “scientifically and legally distinct from GHGs and are not even the subject of the CPP.”

In addition, by relying on these “co-benefits,” EPA is claiming benefits from reducing pollutants that, in some cases, EPA admits are not causing any harm. Shaw cites PM2.5 as an example, stating, “Texas does not have a single county in non-attainment for PM2.5, meaning the EPA has concluded that PM2.5 is not impairing health anywhere in Texas. Yet at the same time, this RIA postulates that reducing PM2.5 levels…will provide some health benefit to Texans.”

This is not the first time that EPA has used “co-benefits” as justification for a costly regulation. Earlier this year, EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards was reviewed and remanded by the Supreme Court for failing to consider costs. During this process, Chief Justice Roberts suggested that EPA’s “co-benefits” analysis could be “an illegitimate way of avoiding the different…quite different limitations on EPA that apply in the [NAAQS] program…” The Supreme Court’s ruling on the mercury rule was a step in the right direction, but now EPA is repeating its misleading behavior in emphasizing the “co-benefits” of Obama’s carbon rule.

As Dr. Shaw and others have pointed out, EPA is overstepping its authority to impose a rule that, even according to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, will have no meaningful, direct impact on respiratory health, atmospheric temperatures, or sea level rise. To avoid an outcome like that with the mercury rule, where costly and irreversible changes had already been made before legal resolution, state policymakers should follow Texas’ lead and reject the president’s costly and overreaching regulation. Blocking EPA’s federal overreach on the new carbon regulation is a small but necessary move towards the broader regulatory reform needed to check EPA’s authority and stop the trend of federal overreach.

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