Unlike the fever swamp of politics, science has a nice way of looping in things like facts and evidence on occasion, which is great because it makes it easier for people to analyze and understand what is going on, maybe sometimes at least. On that note the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken a big step towards restoring rational debate, if not consensus, with Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s new directive requiring scientific cost-benefit analysis for any proposed regulation. James Broughel touts the return of science to environmental protection regulations in an op-ed in Morning Consult, with the hope it will “make critics think twice the next time they call Republicans scientifically illiterate” (don’t hold your breath).
- Previous administrations only paid lip service to assessing the costs of proposed regulation, essentially assuming the benefit of any proposed environmental protection was wide enough to outweigh the costs, whatever they might be.
- On a side note, previous attempts to reform the EPA’s use of science also went badly awry under Wheeler’s predecessor, Scott Pruitt, who left under a cloud of ethics-related charges in July 2018.
- Wheeler’s directive requires actual cost assessments for the impact of proposed regulations, with measures agreed beforehand, with administrators “setting standards of clarity, transparency and consistency for themselves for which they will later be held accountable.”
- One important advance is that cost-benefit analyses for proposed regulations must now include opportunity costs, meaning the cost in terms of new investment and economic activity foregone because of a particular rule.