Bennet Requests GAO Study of Administration Changes to Key Measure of Carbon Pollution Cost

Washington, D.C. - Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, along with six Senate colleagues, today asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to examine the governments' method for calculating the social cost of carbon-the measure of long-term damage done by carbon pollution-after the Trump administration dramatically reduced estimates of the costs of climate change in recent actions. Using a lower estimate for the social cost of carbon could allow the administration to undermine a range of environmental regulations by exaggerating the compliance costs compared to the societal benefits of reduced carbon emissions.

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump issued an executive order disbanding an important interagency working group charged with formulating the social cost of carbon and withdrew the guidance it had issued. The Trump administration also directed agencies to use an outdated Office of Management and Budget policy to monetize the value of greenhouse gas emissions from changes in federal regulation. The result has been a severe downtick in the value of the social cost of carbon. The Environmental Protection Agency's assessment of its proposed rule to repeal the Clean Power Plan, for example, dropped the social cost of carbon from $45 per ton to as low as $1 per ton for 2020. In response, Bennet is leading an effort to standardize the social cost of carbon metric across federal agencies.

In a letter to Comptroller General Gene Dodaro, the senators asked the GAO to look at states and other countries' social costs of carbon; the Trump administration's justification for dramatically changing the way it discounts the costs or benefits of regulation change affecting carbon pollution; and the rationales that have been used to support various discount rates in assessing the social cost of carbon.

In addition to Bennet, Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) made the request.

A copy of the letter is available HERE.