Earlier this week, the U.S. House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on the Environment held a hearing assessing the Trump Administration’s proposed rule to adjust a set of regulations referred to as the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards or MATS rule. Having helped craft this new rule during my former role at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, I was invited to give congressional testimony. Click here to watch it.
Despite the hearing’s title that suggested the proposed changes would be adverse to children’s health, this could not be further from the truth. In my opening statement I clarified that the proposed rule would not threaten in any way the Nation’s ongoing progress in improving children’s health. This is a point explicitly stated on the first page of the MATS proposal, which is printed in the federal government’s official database of regulatory actions called the Federal Register.
The reality is that the new MATS rule and affiliated changes correct a dishonest accounting mechanism that the previous administration used to justify regulatory actions regardless of cost. This is wonky stuff, but really important. Sound cost-to-benefit accounting is not only a bedrock of responsible environmental regulation, it is required by the law.
The last administration tried to ignore this legal requirement in the original MATS rule which is why the Supreme Court of the United States stepped in and sent the rule back to the agency to fix. As a result, EPA had an obligation to properly respond to the Supreme Court’s concerns through a process guided by science and the facts. The culmination of this process is the new MATS rule that fixes the problematic accounting without changing any of the standards that protect the public from mercury emissions.
Because this issue and the affiliated changes are extremely complex, committee members with overt political intentions have tried to mischaracterize them to stoke fear and anxiety. This is an unfortunate tactic that has become commonplace in the realm of environmental and climate change policy.
The truth is the Trump Administration has taken a number of actions to not only maintain but also improve children’s health all across the country. A few examples include the new Lead and Copper rule that would require daycares and elementary schools to sample for lead as well as additional funding for the Healthy School’s Initiative, which focuses on improving the health of children in disadvantage communities. A recent report called “America’s Children and the Environment” highlights the fact that today more children are breather cleaner air and have better access to clean drinking water.
Outside of children’s health, there is even more to celebrate. We are not only experiencing record-breaking economic growth fueled in large part by the “blue collar boom,” we continue to lead the world in all manner of environmental protections. This positive outcome is a clear indicator that the regulatory approach employed by the Trump Administration has found the appropriate measure of balance.