Climate

House Votes To Keep EPA From Considering Costs Of Climate Change

CREDIT: AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty

The House passed a bill Friday that prohibits agencies from considering the social cost of carbon in permit applications.

Climate change costs an incredible amount of money. Whether it is deaths during heat waves, reconstruction after a superstorm, or even lost revenues at ski slopes, rising temperatures and increased extreme weather events are costing the economy. In fact, Citibank reported earlier this year that it will cost $44 trillion worldwide by 2060 to mitigate the costs of climate change under the business as usual scenario.

But efforts to include those costs in permitting projects just took another hit, when the House voted to pass the RAPID Act, a bill intended to streamline permitting processes. Tucked into the bill is language that will prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from considered the social cost of carbon during permitting.

The bill, which passed largely down party lines Friday afternoon, specifically prohibits federal agencies from following draft guidance from the White House Council on Environmental Quality for “consideration of greenhouse gas emissions and the effects of climate change” in environmental reviews. Further, under the RAPID Act, any permit request that is not addressed by the agency deadline will be automatically approved.

“Everybody agrees that approving critically important economic projects should be simple. This is exactly what my RAPID Act does,” Rep. Tom Marino (PA-10) said when he introduced the bill. “It streamlines, it eliminates duplicative processes, it rewards good environmental stewardship and it aids our economy.”

Republicans have widely criticized the White House guidelines for the social cost of carbon and questioned their accuracy.

But not everyone agrees it will be good for either the environment or the economy to take climate change out of the equation.

“The Social Cost of Carbon is an absolutely vital tool to ensure we are spending money wisely and preparing for the future; to stick our heads in the sand on this one is to ignore the facts before us,” Lowenthal said. “I’m glad to see that the two climate change-related amendments by myself and Mr. Peters today picked up a small handful of brave and honest Republicans, but it is not enough.”

Representatives Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Chris Gibson (R-NY) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) supported the two proposed, failed amendments that would have directed agencies to consider climate change. Last week, all three were sponsors of an all-republican House resolution to act on climate change. (The Peters amendment sought to strike the language prohibiting agencies from considering the social cost of carbon.)

In the final tally, no Republicans voted against the bill. Democrats Brad Ashford (NE), Dixon Bishop (GA), Jim Costa (CA), Henry Cuellar (TX), Ruben Hinojosa (TX), Collin Peterson (MN), and Kurt Schrader (OR) voted for the bill.

The White House has said the president will veto the RAPID Act.

“Everyone knows that climate change is urgent,” Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) told ThinkProgress in an email. “The Pope knows, our young people know, even China knows, but this House is unfortunately one of the last bastions of irresponsible inaction. The clock is ticking and too many in the majority don’t get it.”