Monday, July 08, 2013

Bill Calls For Transparency In "Social Cost Of Carbon"

Jul 1: U.S. Representatives Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and Nick Rahall (D-WV) introduced H.R.2593, the Cost-Benefit and Regulatory Transparency Enhancement Act in response to a change in what is known as the "social cost of carbon," included in a little-noticed federal rule on microwave ovens. The bipartisan legislation requires that any cost-benefit analysis and key methods used to justify regulations must be held for at least 60-days pending public review and comment. 

    According to a release from the Members, by increasing the social cost of carbon to $38 a metric ton, government actions that lead to cuts in emissions are considered more valuable, while actions supporting the completion of the Keystone Pipeline and other energy production, for instance, are deemed more costly. Rep. Hunter said, "The social cost of carbon has significant implications on rule making and this calculation could be revised and even manipulated to make cuts in emissions appear more or less valuable in any cost-benefit analysis. Tucking the latest social cost of carbon calculation into an unnoticed rule on microwave ovens raises questions about intent, given that the calculation could be used to justify specific actions supported by the Administration. There should be an opportunity for public review and comment, so that industry and stakeholders can weigh in and provide feedback on cost-benefit analyses and key methods, including the social cost of carbon.  Evidently, this is a process that needs to be more open and transparent, and this legislation will guarantee adequate time and opportunity for congressional and public review."

    The Congressional Research Service (CRS) indicates that the bill, in essence, would require executive branch agencies to report to, and allow the opportunity for comment from,Congress and the public (using the Federal Register) on any cost-benefit analysis (CBA) or regulatory impact analysis (RIA)used in rulemaking. The reporting requirement would apply when an agency is required to conduct an RIA under current statutory and executive order requirements. This bill itself does not appear to create any new requirement for an RIA. The required report would include both the results of the agency's analysis and the methods used to come to those results, including any "key method." The bill explicitly defines a "key method" to include any method that determines the social cost of carbon.

   On May 31, 2013, U.S. Department Energy (DOE) Secretary Ernest Moniz announced that the Agency had finalized new energy efficiency standards for microwave ovens that would save consumers nearly $3 billion on their energy bills through 2030. The regulatory impact analysis associated with the rule also incorporates an update to the interagency "social cost of carbon" (SCC) values [See WIMS 6/3/13], based on the best available science, used to calculate the societal and health benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as discussed in this year's Economic Report of the President. 

        Access a release from Rep. Hunter (click here). Access legislative details for H.R.2593 (click here). Access the CRS analysis H.R.2593 (click here). Access the EPA docket for the microwave rule with supporting documents and comments (click here). [#Climate, #Energy/Efficiency]