Trump’s Actions Should Slow Biden’s Radical Climate Agenda

Incoming President Joe Biden has promised to implement the most radical energy and climate agenda Americans have ever seen.

With the Democratic party having become an almost wholly owned subsidiary of the radical progressive environmental left while controlling both houses of Congress for at least the next two years and the White House for the next four years, Biden and his climate alarmist ilk have their best opportunity ever to impose the biggest government takeover of the economy since the Great Depression.

Fortunately, in the waning days of President Donald Trump’s term, his administration took a series of actions that will act as shock absorbers for the economic havoc Biden’s climate policies would wreak, complicating Biden’s attempt to impose a “Great Reset” to fight supposed climate change.

The Trump administration auctioned off oil and gas leases on public lands in Alaska (January) and California (December). These sales will complicate Biden’s ability to keep his promise of ending new oil and gas leases on federal land.

Although, to the federal government’s fiscal detriment, a Biden administration can refuse to offer more leases, it will be hard to prevent future production from leases the Trump administration recently approved, unless it can come up with the money to buy the leaseholders out of the leases. Federal regulatory agencies under Biden’s control can drag out the environmental review and permitting process, but as long as the companies comply with the relevant laws and guidelines, they should eventually be able to develop these lands.

Biden has vowed to take us back into the Paris climate agreement, from which Trump withdrew the United States, and he can do so. Yet, actions the Trump administration has adopted will make it harder to implement Paris-compliant regulations solely through executive action.

In December, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) determined current National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Ozone and Particulate Matter (PM) were protective of public health. EPA also finalized a rule requiring comprehensive benefit-cost analyses (BCA) be carried out for all future rules implemented under the 1970 Clean Air Act (CAA).

The Obama administration justified most of its climate policies based on claims they would save thousands of lives and billions of dollars. Almost all the supposed benefits of the regulations, however, resulted from counting benefits of restrictions on pollutants such as PM and ozone as if they were new benefits from limiting nontoxic carbon dioxide emissions.

Other purported benefits of carbon-dioxide restrictions flowed from including benefits to people in foreign countries while limiting the cost calculations to those accruing within the borders of the United States.

Under the EPA’s recently finalized BCA rule, all new CAA rules must be accompanied by a BCA that must include a statement discussing any industry, group, or geographic region that will be disproportionately negatively impacted by the rule.

Each new CAA-related regulation must contain a plain-language explanation of what welfare and public health benefits EPA believes the rule will deliver and what costs it will impose. BCAs, under the new procedures, will distinguish between benefits flowing directly from the rule and “co-benefits” resulting from other CAA requirements, and they will separate domestic benefits from any benefits the rule produces for people in other countries, reporting both.

Because Trump’s EPA affirmed and locked in the current ozone and PM standards for the next five years, the Biden administration should find it exceedingly difficult to claim “new” co-benefits from tighter restrictions on these two pollutants from any proposed carbon-dioxide restrictions.

In addition, in early January, Trump’s EPA finalized a rule to improve the transparency and public scrutiny of the science used to justify regulations.

Under the final transparency regulation, the Biden administration will be required to be more transparent than any administration in history concerning the science used to justify new climate regulations. The rule establishes requirements for the independent peer review of pivotal science. In addition, when proposing a significant regulatory action, the agency now must clearly identify the research used to inform the rule, specifying which studies it relied upon for rule-making.

The rule also requires EPA to consider studies for which the underlying dose-response data are available for independent validation and public examination.

Each of the policies described here was in the works long before any votes were cast in the 2020 presidential election. As such, the rules were intended to further Trump’s efforts to promote American greatness and energy independence, not to thwart Joe Biden from implementing his climate agenda.

In fact, these rules by themselves cannot stop Biden from attempting to impose whatever climate policies he thinks he can get away with. What these policies do, however, is make Biden’s efforts more transparent. Maximum transparency and thorough publicly justified analyses are good policies to follow in a democratic republic, regardless of the president or the party in power.

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. (hburnett@heartland.org) is a senior fellow at The Heartland Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois

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