White House regs chief defends ‘social cost of carbon’ boost

The top White House regulatory official is defending the decision to increase the estimated “social cost of carbon” (SCC) in federal agency rule-making, a topic that’s the focus of a House hearing Thursday.

“Entities outside of the Federal government are using estimates that are similar to the updated SCC values. For example, these updated estimates are consistent with the SCC values used by other governments, such as the United Kingdom and Germany,” says Howard Shelanski in testimony prepared for Thursday’s hearing in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The Obama administration this year increased the estimated monetary costs of carbon emissions, a change that can boost the projected benefits of regulations that curb emissions.

The move has generated criticism from Republicans. But Shelanski, who directs the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, notes that the White House and big companies are on the same page on the topic.

“Major corporations, such as ExxonMobil and Shell, have also used similar estimates to evaluate capital investments. The Administration will continue to investigate ways to improve the social cost of carbon estimate,” states Shelanski.

He also seeks to reassure lawmakers that there’s opportunity for public input on the change.

“The current estimates will be used in the economic analysis of rulemakings, and we fully expect comments on the SCC values in the context of future rules. We will consider those comments to ensure that we use the best available information to evaluate the costs and benefits of our regulation,” his testimony states.

The SCC is an estimate of factors, such as changes in human health and agricultural productivity, property damage from greater flood risks, and several others.