On June 7, 2018, the EPA issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to announce that it was considering new ways to increase consistency and transparency in its consideration of costs and benefits involved in regulatory decisions, and is seeking public input.
Many environmental statutes, such as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Safe Drinking Water Act, require the EPA to consider the costs and benefits when setting pollution standards. But the current EPA administration believes that the lack of clear, unambiguous, and uniform guidance, rules, and standards related to cost-benefit analysis has led to inconsistent and non-transparent results. That is, the EPA believes that, without uniformity, cost-benefit analysis can and has been “interpreted differently by the EPA depending on the office promulgating the regulatory action,” which has led to the “EPA choosing different standards under the same provision of the statute.” That, in turn, has created a “risk of uncertainty and confusion for states, local communities, and industry.”
This move by the EPA—to create more consistency and transparency in cost-benefit analysis—appears to be driven by the current EPA administration’s desire to see more uniform results across administrations. Under President Trump and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, the current EPA administration’s cost-benefit analysis of certain regulations has produced drastically different results than the cost-benefit analysis conducted by President Obama’s EPA of those same regulations. The same is true of President Trump’s EPA’s and President Obama’s EPA’s approaches to analyzing “co-benefits,” i.e., “benefits from reduced emissions of a pollutant that is not the actual target pollutant of a regulation”—they have differed significantly.
EPA Administrator Pruitt, in a press release regarding this notice, stated, “Many have complained that the previous administration inflated the benefits and underestimated the costs of its regulations through questionable cost-benefit analysis . . . . This action is the next step toward providing clarity and real-world accuracy with respect to the impact of the Agency’s decisions on the economy and the regulated community.” The goal, per the EPA, would be to “provide the public with a better understanding of how EPA is evaluating costs when developing a regulatory action and allow the public to provide better feedback to EPA on potential future proposed rules.”
The EPA’s announcement and instructions on how to submit public comments can be found here.
The Environmental Attorneys at Bick Law LLP will continue to monitor developments in environmental matters around the country.