Trump’s Last-Minute Attack on Clean Air Faces Legal Challenge

Cost-benefit requirements would discount public health and frontline communities


Erin Fitzgerald,

Today, Earthjustice, on behalf of California Communities Against Toxics, Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Sierra Club, filed a challenge to an eleventh-hour Trump administration rule that undermines the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to protect air quality and public health. Under the regulation, the EPA will be required to prepare an extensive cost-benefit analysis before proposing any significant protections under the Clean Air Act — even when Congress has prohibited the EPA from considering costs.

While the Trump administration spuriously claimed that the rule is a good-government measure, it would in fact do significant harm by minimizing the non-monetary benefits of air-quality protections, such as reductions in mortality and chronic illness. The regulation poses a particular threat to low-income communities, whose health and well-being will be further marginalized as a result of the rule’s requirements.

On its first day in office, the Biden administration announced that the cost-benefit rule is one of the many Trump administration policies that are currently under review.

The following statements are from Earthjustice and one of the plaintiff groups:

“The Trump administration’s cost-benefit rule is an unlawful attempt to undermine the protections of the Clean Air Act at the expense of frontline communities. It should be repealed, without delay, by the new administration,” said Sean Helle, Earthjustice attorney representing the groups.

“The Trump administration’s rule seeks to minimize the critical importance of Clean Air Act protections. Air pollution has been linked to asthma, preterm birth, miscarriages, COPD, heart attacks, and mortality. The Biden administration must protect the EPA’s ability to protect public health by repealing the regulation,” said Jane Williams, Executive Director, California Communities Against Toxics.

“This dishonest Trump-era rule should be revoked immediately, as it seeks to hinder the Biden administration from protecting public health and cleaning up the air. This is especially egregious amid a global health crisis that hits people of color and low-incomed communities the hardest,” said Emily Davis, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

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