What have you always wondered about the economy? Tell us

How EPA weighs costs, benefits of air pollution regulation

Stan Alcorn Nov 26, 2014
HTML EMBED:
COPY

How EPA weighs costs, benefits of air pollution regulation

Stan Alcorn Nov 26, 2014
HTML EMBED:
COPY

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court agreed to take up a case challenging limits on toxins found in emissions from coal-fired power plants, on the grounds that industry believed the Environmental Protection Agency should have taken the costs of regulation into account earlier.

On Wednesday, the EPA proposed a rule to lower the amount of smog-causing ozone allowed in the air. The rule was slated for 2011, but delayed by President Obama on grounds that it was important to reduce “regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty, particularly as our economy continues to recover.”

So how does the EPA weigh costs and benefits?

The agency is actually forbidden from taking costs into account when writing rules such as the limit on ozone, but EPA administrator Gina McCarthy says the health benefits nonetheless exceed the costs of compliance. The American Petroleum Institute, an oil industry trade group, comes to a very different conclusion in its analysis.

Richard Revesz , a New York University law professor and author of “Retaking Rationality: How Cost-Benefit Analysis Can Better Protect the Environment and our Health” says the EPA has generally underestimated, not overestimated, costs. But the whole argument over costs and benefits is largely about convincing the public and the politicians. 

Marketplace is on a mission.

We believe Main Street matters as much as Wall Street, economic news is made relevant and real through human stories, and a touch of humor helps enliven topics you might typically find…well, dull.

Through the signature style that only Marketplace can deliver, we’re on a mission to raise the economic intelligence of the country—but we don’t do it alone. We count on listeners and readers like you to keep this public service free and accessible to all. Will you become a partner in our mission today?

Your donation is critical to the future of public service journalism. Support our work today – for as little as $5 – and help us keep making people smarter.