Judicial Watch announced Wednesday it received documents from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that show the agency’s claim that the Obama administration’s 2015 Clean Power Plan would prevent thousands of premature deaths by 2030 was, at best, misleading.
The documents were produced in accordance with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed in June 2017 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia after the EPA failed to respond to a May 3, 2017 FOIA request (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (No. 1:17-cv-01217)). Judicial Watch requested:
All internal emails or other records explaining, or requesting an explanation of, the EPA’s decision to claim that the Clean Power Plan would prevent between 2,700 to 6,600 premature deaths by 2030.
The documents forced out by Judicial Watch reveal that carbon dioxide reduction itself would not prevent any deaths. In a June 2, 2014, email from Bloomberg news reporter Mike Dorning to EPA officials Matt Lehrich and Thomas Reynolds, Dorning asks if particulate matter and ozone are the real concern:
So far, what I have found on my own is Table 4-18 on page 4-36 of the Regulatory Impact Analysis report. And, am I reading the table correctly in concluding that all of those reductions come not from the impact on global warming or carbon emissions but entirely from anticipated reductions in emissions of fine particulate matter and ozone that you forecast will come from changes made to reach the carbon reduction goals?
Neither Lehrich nor Reynolds answered Dorning’s question directly, however, Liz Purchia, an Obama-era communications staffer at the agency, characterized the premature-deaths figure as “co-benefits” of carbon reductions and revealed that none of the premature deaths would be prevented by CO2 emission reductions:
This [premature-deaths figure] is a calculation based on the NOX, S02 and PM co-benefits.
It is the soot and ozone that the EPA estimates to cause the deaths, not the carbon dioxide. The Obama EPA sought to force industry to reduce carbon output, therefore, electricity producers would have no choice but to redesign factories in a way that also produces less fine particulate matter (soot) and ozone emissions into the atmosphere.
The EPA did not explain its theory of indirect, “co-benefits” in its press statement, nor did the EPA explain that it is possible to save just as many lives by passing a law requiring less soot and ozone emissions without also requiring a reduction in carbon output.
“Judicial Watch has caught the Obama EPA red handed issuing a series of half-truths and deliberately misleading information – pure propaganda – designed to deceive the American public into accepting its radical environmental agenda,” said Judicial Watch President, Tom Fitton. “The documents show the Obama EPA could not demonstrate that carbon dioxide reductions would in fact reduce the number of premature deaths. It is no surprise it took a federal lawsuit to uncover this Obama deceit. We appreciate that the Trump EPA did not drag this litigation out – we hope other Trump officials start finally paying attention to the FOIA law.”
The controversial Clean Power Plan was promoted as combating “anthropogenic climate change” and was designed to mandate the shifting of electricity generation away from coal-powered plants. On March 28, President Trump signed an executive order directing the EPA to begin the legal process of withdrawing and rewriting the Clean Power Plan, which would have closed hundreds of coal-fired power plants, halted construction of new plants, increased reliance on natural-gas-fired plants and shifted power generation to huge new wind and solar farms. On June 1, President Trump also announced the United States would cease participation in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change mitigation.
The EPA omitted the claim that the plan would reduce “2,700 to 6,600 premature deaths” in its final rule.