Scott Pruitt, still clinging to his position leading Trump’s EPA, went to the Heritage Foundation on Wednesday. While E&E reported that one attendee referred to the meeting as a “denier’s conference” featuring Myron Ebell, Pat Michaels and Steve Milloy, details were sparse.
But fellow fossil fuel flunkie Michael Bastasch at the Daily Caller spilled the beans yesterday, revealing that Pruitt told the attendees that he is planning to stop counting the co-benefits of environmental protections.
If Pruitt keeps his job long enough to see this through, and it survives in courts, this could be one of the most craven and important fronts in Pruitt’s War on Air Pollution Science. Because in doing cost-benefit analyses of regulations to reduce pollution, there are often great benefits that aren’t part of the initial target.
For example, the goal of the Clean Power Plan is to reduce carbon pollution to fight climate change. But in switching away from coal to cleaner energy sources, we would also save lives by reducing particulate matter pollution (PM2.5). These saved lives, in the thousands, aren’t direct benefits of reducing greenhouse gases, but are counted as co-benefits because reducing fossil fuel use reduces that pollution.
By ignoring them, Pruitt’s EPA wouldn’t be denying that the CPP would be saving as many as 4,500 lives a year by 2030 (something they acknowledge). They would simply be saying that those lost lives don’t matter. When tallying up the benefits of reducing pollution, these people's lives literally would not count.
The man in charge of protecting Americans’ health and environment is saying that when doing a cost-benefit analysis, we shouldn’t count the benefits of keeping Americans alive.
If this seems hard to believe, let us remind you that opposition to PM2.5 controls is rooted in an industry that makes its money off of a product that kills its customers: tobacco. Because just like with the “sound science” approach Pruitt floated last month, the tobacco industry’s lobbyists, including Steve Milloy, fought against PM2.5 regulations. And although he’s moved from tobacco to fossil fuels, Milloy continues to attack PM2.5 science.
In some ways, this isn’t exactly surprising. As Pruitt’s scandals mount and he grows ever more desperate to use his position at the EPA to serve polluters at the public’s expense, his appeals to allies will grow more blatant. This move, then, can be seen as a way to both please polluters who will fund his future campaigns, as well as appease the conservative groups who will lobby Trump not to fire Pruitt.
Even if it means sacrificing thousands of American lives for the sake of letting industry pollute without consequence, apparently Pruitt has no shame about making friends with co-benefits.