Bennet Introduces Bill to Lock In a Science-Based Method to Determine the Cost of Carbon Pollution

Legislation Would Hinder Trump Administration Efforts to Weaken Climate Protections

Washington, D.C. – Today, on World Environment Day, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet led 16 of his colleagues in reintroducing the Carbon Pollution Transparency Act, legislation to ensure the federal government implements a science-based process to account for the cost of carbon pollution in regulations through a standard metric. The legislation is cosponsored by the majority of members of the Senate Democrats’ new Special Committee on the Climate Crisis.

Bennet first introduced the bill in the last Congress, and today’s version makes important updates, including requiring all costs of climate change to be considered, adjusting the values for inflation, broadening the group of agencies involved in determining this metric, and requiring impacts in environmental justice communities to be considered. The legislation follows the lead of New York, Minnesota, Illinois, and, as of last week, Colorado. The Carbon Pollution Transparency Act counters the Trump administration’s repeated efforts to weaken regulations on climate pollution, including the Clean Power Plan, by using questionable math to obscure the true cost of carbon pollution. Following President Trump’s steps to weaken this metric, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) opened an inquiry.

“The Trump administration is deliberately ignoring broad scientific consensus and using shady math to weaken climate protections,” Bennet said. “We cannot stand by as this administration tries to upend years of progress and imperils the health of future generations. We need to accurately account for the cost of climate pollution in order to protect Americans, design effective policy, and provide market and regulatory certainty.”

Cosponsors include: U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tom Carper (D-DE), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tina Smith (D-MN), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ed Markey (D-MA), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV).


Background on the Carbon Pollution Transparency Act:

Since the George W. Bush administration, the federal government has been required to consider the economic damages that result from climate pollution in the rulemaking process. The social cost of greenhouse gases was developed through a rigorous process, using the best available economics and science and revised when necessary. In March 2017, the Trump administration directed federal agencies to ignore the existing metric and instead select their own metrics – uprooting years of progress and economic certainty.

The Carbon Pollution Transparency Act would codify an existing, scientifically-developed value for the cost of climate pollution across all federal agencies. The legislation would also streamline the regulatory process by standardizing the metric and re-establishing a process to revise it through public consultation. Ultimately, it would create greater market and regulatory certainty by ensuring federal decisions are transparent, standardized, and fact-based.

The Carbon Pollution Transparency Act introduced today updates the bill Bennet introduced in October 2017. In December 2017, Bennet and his colleagues asked the GAO to look into the Trump administration’s changes to the method for calculating the social cost of carbon, prompting the current inquiry.

The Carbon Pollution Transparency Act is supported by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Environmental Defense Fund, participants of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine committee that authored a 2017 report on the cost of carbon pollution, and a coalition of experts and state and local officials.  

A fact sheet is available HERE. The bill text is available HERE.


Statements in support of the legislation:

"Here in Colorado, we passed legislation this spring directing our utility regulators to use the social cost of carbon when evaluating plans submitted by our utilities. This ensures that we are making decisions based on all of the costs and benefits, including the very real costs imposed on our communities by carbon pollution. The federal government should do the same, and we strongly support this bill,” Will Toor, Director of the Colorado Energy Office said.

“A two year old believes that putting her hands over her own eyes makes her invisible. Grownups know better. Pretending that science doesn’t exist will not make climate change go away. The Carbon Pollution Transparency Act will give policy makers the tools needed to accurately account for the cost of carbon pollution in decision-making. Consistent and transparent accounting for the impacts of climate change will prevent waste of taxpayer funds on subsidies for shaky infrastructure and obsolete technologies. I applaud Senator Bennet's leadership on this important topic,” Mary Nichols, Chair of the California Air Resources Board said.

“The social cost of carbon is a linchpin of national climate policy, providing a guidepost to balance the costs of climate change to our economy today with the damages that have started to arrive and are projected to grow. This bill ensures that this critical guidepost continues to be robust and grounded in the latest available science and economics, while providing certainty to businesses eager to have a consistent regulatory process,” Michael Greenstone, Milton Friedman Professor in Economics, the College and the Harris School and Director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago said.

“It is critically important for policymakers to account for the economic costs of greenhouse gas emissions in their policy decisions. These costs should be quantified using the best available science and economics, in order to inform decisions that affect public wellbeing,” Richard Revesz, Lawrence King Professor of Law, Dean Emeritus, and Director of the Institute of Policy Integrity at NYU School of Law said.

“Proper evaluation of the benefits and costs of regulations that affect emissions of greenhouse gases requires that the federal government use the best available estimate of the damages that such emissions cause. This bill would guarantee that this happens. It is consistent with a recent report issued by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. We, the undersigned, strongly support the Carbon Pollution Transparency Act.”

- Maureen L. Cropper, Distinguished University Professor of Economics, University of Maryland
- Richard Schmalensee, Professor of Management and Economics, Emeritus, MIT, Member of the Council of Economic Advisers from 1989-1991
- Glen Hubbard, Dean of Columbia School of Business, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors under President George W. Bush

“Americans across the country are already suffering because of climate change – in terms of health and safety, but also financially. These costs are real and we need to be taking them into account,” Susanne Brooks, the Environmental Defense Fund’s Senior Director of Climate Policy and Analysis said. “This bill will help ensure that we’re making decisions that are based on the best available science and economics.”

“The Boulder Chamber recognizes the need for accurate and consistent accounting of the economic impact of carbon emissions and supports the efforts of Senator Bennet and his colleagues to maintain that consistent accounting along with a process for regularly assessing the accuracy of the economic impact metric,” John L. Tayer, President and CEO of Boulder Chamber said.

“As an elected representative of a community whose major economic drivers are agriculture and outdoor recreation, industries which are both threatened by the negative impacts of climate change, I support and applaud Senator Bennet's legislation. Codifying, quantifying and acknowledging the financial costs of climate polluting emissions and using science as a metric to direct policy and decision making is just common sense and good proactive governance,” John A. Messner, Gunnison County Commissioner said.