With an absence of federal leadership on climate change, many states have worked to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on their own, often by incorporating a broader range of considerations into electricity policy. Our report assesses the potential to expand the valuation of climate damages in state electricity policy using Social Cost of Carbon metrics. We examine existing statutes and regulations in all 50 states to identify opportunities for valuing climate impacts around the country.
Why the Social Cost of Carbon Does Not Capture Critical Climate Damages and What That Means for Policymakers
The Social Cost of Carbon, developed by the Obama-era Interagency Working Group (IWG), is the best available tool for measuring the economic damages from greenhouse gas emissions. It has been used in analysis for over 100 federal regulations that affect greenhouse gas emissions, as well as by a number of states in electricity and climate policy. Still, many significant impacts identified by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are difficult to quantify and so have been omitted from the IWG SCC estimates. Impacts such as increased fire risk, slower economic growth, and large-scale migration are all unaccounted for, despite their potential to cause large economic losses. Our new issue brief discusses these omissions and other variables that will influence climate outcomes. We encourage policymakers to account for this likely underestimate by viewing the SCC as a lower bound for damages.
Challenging the Anti-Regulatory Narrative
Critics of the administrative state have been urging Congress to rein in regulatory action, claiming that regulations created by executive agencies are undesirable as a matter of policy and are in violation of constitutional principles. In a troubling development, the Trump Administration has also turned away from cost-benefit analysis in order to carry out its anti-regulatory agenda, disregarding an established bipartisan consensus that stretched back several decades. This article, published in the Michigan State Law Review, argues that this anti-regulatory position is unwarranted. These executive regulatory actions produced large net benefits to the American people, were carried out pursuant to authority delegated by Congress, and were reviewed by the courts. By contrast, more robust action by Congress, as long as Congress continues to exhibit its current gridlock on important policy issues like climate change, is unlikely to be beneficial.
Trump-Era Regulatory Suspensions and the Rule of Law
Our report provides a survey of the legality of Trump Administration’s regulatory suspensions. Looking at a number of cases, we discuss the administration’s disregard for notice-and-comment requirements, statutory restrictions, and the reasoned explanation requirement. We also lay out some of the challenges facing advocates, and the strategies by which agencies have evaded review.
Why Withdrawing the 2022-2025 Standards Is Economically Flawed
The Environmental Protection Agency sets greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars and light trucks, and it periodically reevaluates these standards to make sure that car manufacturers can comply. In April 2018, EPA withdrew its previous determination that standards for model year 2022–2025 vehicles were appropriate and would improve public welfare, now saying that more recent information suggests that the standards are too stringent. Our policy brief shows that EPA’s claim—that new information indicates that the assumptions underlying the previous determination are unrealistic—is not supported by the evidence. In fact, the opposite is the case. Recent trends in fuel prices, vehicle sales, automaker compliance, and safety all indicate that the existing 2022–2025 standards can be met at low cost while delivering large benefits to consumers and the economy. EPA’s decision to withdraw the standards will instead cause regulatory uncertainty that will hurt the automotive sector while also harming the environment.
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