House Honcho: EPA ‘not being totally honest’ on Utility MACT benefits

EPA exaggerate? Say it ain’t so!

Greenwire reports:

The chairman of a House panel with broad jurisdiction over energy and climate change policy said today that he does not expect any of the bills his subcommittee produces to make it to the president’s desk this year.

Still, Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) said the Energy and Power Subcommittee would spend the year laying the groundwork for legislation in the next Congress, including possible amendments to the Clean Air Act.

At a briefing today hosted by Politico Pro, Whitfield said his panel would hold forums this year on the landmark environmental law “to identify key areas that need to be addressed.” Actual legislation would have to wait until next year, he said.

One area of concern is the way U.S. EPA calculates the costs and benefits of its clean air rules, Whitfield said, including its new mercury and air toxics rule for power plants. Whitfield said EPA’s estimate that the benefits of the so-called Utility MACT rule would outweigh its costs 9-to-1 is based on questionable analyses that double count avoided health care costs and depend heavily on side benefits that are not the aim of the rule, such as cuts to fine particulate matter.

“I do believe that EPA was not being totally honest on the benefits of the Utility MACT,” he said. “I think they exaggerated it.”

In a hearing last week before Whitfield’s subcommittee, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson defended her agency’s choice to count auxiliary benefits when conducting cost-benefit analyses. She said it is difficult to value the financial benefits of mercury reductions.

“Social science is not to the point where EPA can put a number on the value of lost IQ points or some of the things we would be asked to value,” she said…