In its latest effort to manipulate how the human impact of its pro-business policies are perceived, the Trump administration is preparing to throw out decades-old methodology used to determine the danger of air pollution. The EPA will now favor a new method under which it would drastically undercount the number of premature deaths that pollution causes, critics say.
The New York Times reported Monday that as the White House prepares to replace the Obama-era Clean Power Plan with the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) plan, the Trump administration will bolster its case for the regulatory rollback by effectively rescinding the EPA’s own estimate that it could lead to 1,400 premature deaths per year.
That estimate was made using a peer-reviewed methodology under which the existence of fine particles of chemicals—also known as particulate matter—in the air were found to be dangerous even if they were below the level considered to be toxic. Under the EPA’s new plan, only particulate matter which reaches that level will be considered a public health risk which could lead to premature deaths.
As Lisa Friedman reported in the Times, “The new methodology would assume there is little or no health benefit to making the air any cleaner than what the law requires,” allowing the EPA to estimate that the continued operation of coal plants under the ACE plan would not lead to more deaths from respiratory illnesses, heart disease, and other conditions linked to air pollution.
The shift represents a “monumental departure” from the sound science used over several decades, environmental law expert Richard Revesz told the Times.
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