Sunday, June 18, 2017

OIRA Works Quietly on Updating Social Cost of Carbon

Some federal employees are still working on the social cost of carbon. (Credit: Sean Hayford Oleary/Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
Not far from the White House, some of the federal government's most influential number crunchers are still working on the social cost of carbon.

President Trump's executive order on energy independence effectively signaled "pencils down" on federal work to estimate the monetary damage of greenhouse gas emissions, disbanding the interagency working group that calculated the dollar value on the effect of greenhouse gas emissions on the planet and society.

But his order didn't eliminate the metric entirely.

The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs' Jim Laity, a career staffer who leads the Natural Resources and Environment Branch, said yesterday his office is "actively working on thinking about the guidance" Trump gave in March.

With the Trump agenda focused on regulatory rollback, federal agencies haven't yet issued rules that require valuations of carbon emissions, "although they are working on something coming in the not-too-distant future," Laity told an audience attending the National Academy of Sciences' seminar on valuing climate change impacts.

Employees from U.S. EPA, the Interior Department, and the Department of Energy were in the crowd, along with academics and prominent Washington think tank scholars.

Greens fear the Trump administration could wipe out the social cost of carbon valuation, currently set around $40 per metric ton of carbon dioxide, as part of what they portray as a war on climate science.  Revisions to the White House estimates have raised hackles among Republicans and conservatives, who allege they are part of a secret power grab.

Laity would play a key role in that effort as top overseer of energy and environmental rules.

Addressing the summit via webcast yesterday, Laity walked the audience through a decade of actions related to the calculation and influential feedback, including from a 13-member panel of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.  He stressed the outcome is still uncertain.

The Trump administration "looked at the work we had done, and they looked at the criticisms, and they decided we needed to have a pause to kind of rethink what we were doing a little bit in this area," Laity said, previewing the executive order that was praised by the oil and gas industry.

Read more at OIRA Works Quietly on Updating Social Cost of Carbon

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