Heinzerling Calls Out Misleading Cost Claims on Environmental Regulations

Brian Gumm

April 21, 2016

Lisa Heinzerling, a Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholar and Georgetown University Professor of Law, published a piece this week on The Conversation that explores the ongoing political debate over environmental regulations. 

In particular, Heinzerling calls out the often misleading claims about the costs of safeguards that protect our air, water, health, and wild places: 

Specifically, the 2010 Small Business Administration regulatory costs study misinterpreted a World Bank database and drew unsupportable conclusions from it. The study also included the costs of rules that did not exist because either agencies or courts pulled them back. It relied on a 1974 study by the National Association of Manufacturers to estimate the cost of workplace safety regulations today, and double-counted rules in estimating costs. 

Even when performed more carefully, estimates of regulatory costs have often proved too high. For example, the actual costs of the national emissions trading program targeting acid rain (created in 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act) were far lower than the costs estimated as Congress debated the program. There were several reasons for the overestimation. Notably, it did not account for technological changes that would occur due to the regulatory program itself. 

Huge estimates of regulatory costs, standing alone, also ignore the losses – in environmental integrity, human health and economic prosperity – associated with environmental harms. According to a peer-reviewed EPA study, the Clean Air Act alone will prevent over 230,000 premature deaths in 2020, and return more than $30 in benefits for every dollar spent in costs. 

You can read the full text of Heinzerling's piece at The Conversation.

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