Air Pollution Economic Impact Model Lacks Clarity: EPA Advisers

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By Sylvia Carignan

The EPA’s model for evaluating the broad economic costs and benefits of air pollution regulations isn’t clear enough to help the general public, members of the agency’s Science Advisory Board said Aug. 29.

The analysis is intended to help utilities, industries, and the Environmental Protection Agency’s policymakers determine the effects of federal regulations on factors like energy prices and employment. A recent court decision in Murray Energy Corp. v. EPA gave the agency latitude to carry out cost-benefit reviews as it and its advisers deem appropriate.

Members of the science board, who met Aug. 29 to discuss their draft report on EPA’s draft economy-wide model, sought clarifications and transparency on the model’s shortcomings.

“These models are very intricate, very complex—a lot of moving parts—and in some cases those are grounded in careful econometric estimates,” said Robert Johnston, a board member and economics professor at Clark University. “But in many cases, we don’t have the data, and these models are based on long-maintained assumptions.”

A Science Advisory Board sub-panel formed to create the report will make revisions and send the report to Administrator Scott Pruitt once the panel’s chair, Peter Wilcoxen, has signed off.

“This is a tremendously costly endeavor, and that’s why we haven’t done it already,” Wilcoxen, an environment and international policy professor at Syracuse University, said.

Members of the chartered Science Advisory Board include consultants, researchers and analysts at U.S. universities, environmental advocacy groups, Dow Chemical, Procter & Gamble, and ExxonMobil.

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