Commentary: WASHINGTON, D.C. (Oct. 6, 2017) - U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, cosponsored legislation led by U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) to standardize the metric used by federal agencies to measure the cost of climate pollution. The Pollution Transparency Act counters a directive from the Trump administration to federal agencies to ignore existing metrics—uprooting years of progress and economic certainty—and an attempt made this week by the Department of Interior in the revised BLM methane rule to change the department’s metric without any prior consultation or transparency.
“More than ever before, we’ve seen the economic toll that climate change takes on communities through larger and more frequent storms, fires, and floods. We have a moral obligation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate our contributions to climate change,” said Senator Heinrich. “The impact of greenhouse gas emissions on public health and our economy needs to be standardized in a process rooted in science so we can best quantify and reduce those emissions.”
Since the George W. Bush administration, the federal government has been required to consider the economic damages that result from climate pollution in the rulemaking process. The Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases metric was developed through a rigorous process, using the best available economics and science and revised when necessary. In March, the Trump administration directed federal agencies to ignore the existing metric and instead select their own metrics—uprooting years of progress and economic certainty.
The Pollution Transparency Act would codify a scientifically-developed value for the cost of climate pollution across all federal agencies. The requirement to consider this cost already exists; this legislation would simply streamline the regulatory process by standardizing the metric and re-establishing a process to revise it through a public process. Ultimately, it would create greater market and regulatory certainty by ensuring federal decisions are transparent, standardized, and grounded in facts.
Companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Donald McEachin (D-VA-4).
In particular, the legislation would:
- Codify the most recent version of the federally determined climate pollution damage metric for carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide so all federal agencies are utilizing the same Cost of Greenhouse Gases in economically significant rule making;
- Re-establish a federal interagency working group led by the Office of Management and Budget, Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Council of Economic Advisors to revise the Cost of Greenhouse Gases every five years if necessary;
- Establish a scientific review committee, comprised of 10 members selected by the presidents of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, to provide input to the federal government on whether and how the Cost of Greenhouse Gases should be revised;
- Require the administration to provide a 90-day public comment period on any revision of the Cost of Greenhouse Gases;
- Require federal agencies to consider the Cost of Greenhouse Gases in substantial procurement decisions.
A copy of the bill is available here.