Dire Climate Change Warnings Cut From Trump Power-Plant Proposal

(Bloomberg) -- Warnings about potentially severe consequences of climate change were deleted from a Trump administration plan to weaken curbs on power plant emissions during a White House review.

Drafts had devoted more than 500 words to highlighting the impacts -- more heat waves, intense hurricanes, heavy rainfalls, floods and water pollution -- as part of the proposal to replace Obama-era restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions. That language was left out of the Trump administration’s final analysis of the Environmental Protection Agency proposal, when it was unveiled Aug. 21.

Among the abandoned assertions: an acknowledgment that “the climate has continued to change, with new records being set” for global average surface temperatures, Arctic sea ice retreat, carbon dioxide concentrations and sea level rise, all markers of the phenomenon.

The administration also scrapped a reference to numerous “major scientific assessments” that “strengthen the case that GHGs endanger public health and welfare both for current and future generations.”

Internal documents from a White House-led interagency review of the proposal reveal the decision to spike the language but not the rationale for doing so nor who ordered it omitted. The documents, recently released online, show the deletions came during last-minute August edits to the plan’s regulatory impact analysis.

The abandoned assertions would have represented surprisingly candid admissions for an administration stacked with officials who have questioned how much human activity drives climate change and led by a president who once suggested global warming was a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese.

The spiked language also would have provided more justification for government regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, further tying the EPA’s hands on the issue.

“It’s clear that EPA decided that it needed to hide any discussion of the harmful impacts of climate change in the regulatory analysis in order to justify, and avoid undermining, the Clean Power Plan rollback,” said Amit Narang, a regulatory policy expert with Public Citizen.

The initial documents underscore the durability of the government’s scientific machine -- including the career officials who study climate change -- even as the Trump administration seeks to cut research on the phenomenon and whittle regulations aimed at combating it.

The EPA acknowledged revisions during the regulatory review but did not explain why they were made.

“As a result of the interagency review process, a number of changes were made to the proposed ACE rule and its accompanying materials,” said EPA spokeswoman Molly Block. “EPA looks forward to receiving comment on a variety of these issues during the public comment period.”

In the end, the government’s final analysis included just 13 specific references to “climate change.” The analysis also included a slimmed-down reference to EPA’s obligation to regulate emissions, without any talk of impending catastrophe.

“In 2009, EPA administrator found that elevated concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere may reasonably be anticipated both to endanger public health and to endanger public welfare. It is these adverse impacts that necessitate EPA regulation of GHGs from" power plants, the final document said. ‘‘Since 2009, other science assessments suggest accelerating trends.”

Endangerment Finding

The administration also backed off from a plan to seek public comment on the appropriateness of the EPA’s landmark conclusion that greenhouse gas emissions endanger the public health and welfare. That endangerment finding, as it is known, serves as the legal underpinning for a suite of regulations designed to combat climate change.

EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler has said he would not reopen the endangerment finding, but conservatives are petitioning the agency to revisit the issue.

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