We are the 99%

December 8, 2011

With A Little Plagiarism Comes Some Dishonesty

Look at this paragraph from today's Tribune-Review:
By the EPA's own estimates, the benefit of mandated mercury reductions from power plants is $6.1 million, total. But the rule creates annual compliance costs of $11 billion. Quite the cost-benefit analysis, eh? Other than that, and creating a climate for serious disruptions to the nation's power grid, hey, it's a great idea, right?
Now look at this paragraph this WSJ Editorial from December 6:
Keep in mind that the EPA estimates that the benefits to society from the mercury reductions in the utility rule max out at $6.1 million, total, while imposing $11 billion in compliance costs annually. That is a crazy tradeoff even if it didn't endanger the electric grid.
Any closer and they'd need quotation marks but close enough that Scaife's braintrust should have done the right thing and simply added "According to our friends at the Wall Street Journal..." instead of trying to pass it off as an original thought.

Lazy, lazy, lazy.  Embarrassing, even for the Trib.

It's also incorrect - this is what the EPA said (it's from the "Executive Summary" from the March 2001 report):
This proposed rule will reduce emissions of Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAP) including mercury from the electric power industry. As a co-benefit, the emissions of certain PM2.5 precursors such as SO2 will also decline. EPA estimates that this proposed rule will yield annual monetized benefits (in 2007$) of between $59 to $140 billion using a 3% discount rate and $53 and $130 billion using a 7% discount rate. The great majority of the estimates are attributable to co-benefits from reductions in PM2.5-related mortality. The annual social costs are $10.9 billion (2007$) and the annual quantified net benefits are $48 to $130 billion using 3% discount rate or $42 to $120 billion using a 7% discount rate. The benefits outweigh costs by between 5 to 1 or 13 to 1 depending on the benefit estimate and discount rate used.
And so where, might you ask, did the $6.1 million number come from?

Scott Segal, director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council. Segal calls the ERCC:
[A] group of power-generating companies that provide reliable and affordable power to millions of American households, small businesses, industrial facilities, schools and hospitals.
It's an industry trade group.  He's the director of an industry trade group and this is what he said:
It stands to reason that the vast majority of benefits claimed by EPA to justify the proposed rule must be the result of reductions in mercury emissions. But the Agency’s cost-benefit analysis tells a very different story. According to EPA, the benefits to society of the mercury-reduction requirements are in the range of $500,000 to a maximum of $6.1 million in total (i.e. not even annual) benefits. In other words, in a rule estimated by EPA to cost $11 billion annually, the maximum total benefit of reducing emissions of mercury—the emissions of which serve as the primary basis for the rule—is $6.1 million.
That's where the number comes from.

And what does the EPA have to say about all this?  From way back in July, 2011:
In response, EPA officials reiterated their estimate that the total annual cost of the rule would be $10.9 billion in 2015 and would yield up to $140 billion in health benefits annually.

The agency also rebuffed Segal's argument that EPA figures showed the maximum benefit to society of mercury-reduction requirements is valued at only $6.1 million. That figure applies only to recreational fishers, and represents on a small portion of overall health benefits, the unnamed officials said. [emphasis added]
So when the WSJ editorialists (and their too close for comfort copyists on Scaife's payroll) say that the EPA says it's a total of $6.1 million in benefits that would be completely and utterly wrong.

And since passing off a falsehood as the truth is, by definition, lying...

Well you get the picture.

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