Trump’s EPA Used Accounting Tricks to Justify Revoking the Clean Power Plan

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, June 2, 2017.

On October 10, 2017, Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), officially proposed revoking the Clean Power Plan (CPP). Finalized by President Barack Obama in August 2015, the CPP set the first-ever carbon pollution standards for power plants. Revoking it means nullifying its potential benefits, including averted asthma attacks and a safer climate.

To justify his proposal to revoke the CPP, Administrator Pruitt had to use fuzzy math to inflate potential compliance costs in the electricity sector and undervalue benefits to human health and the environment. Administrator Pruitt used three tricks to skew the math in its favor:

  • He assumed that climate change poses little cost—therefore, cutting carbon pollution provides little benefit to human health and the environment.
  • He ignored reams of science linking any level of exposure to fine particle pollution to asthma attacks, premature death, and other health effects.
  • He pretended that electric utilities would not benefit from energy efficiency programs and counted costs that utilities would never incur.

These fact sheets provide more detail on Administrator Pruitt’s attempts to make the costs of the Clean Power Plan appear to outweigh its benefits:

Alison Cassady is the director of Domestic Energy and Environment Policy at the Center for American Progress. Luke Bassett is associate director of Domestic Energy and Environment Policy at the Center.