Economists Urge Formation of Statistics Office Within EPA

Date: November 30, 2011

Source: News Room

As the debate over the costs on industry of EPA rules rages on, a group of economists is renewing long-standing calls for Congress to create an independent environmental statistics agency that would give policymakers a better understanding of the cost of pollution and the benefits of control policies. Their request comes as the Obama administration is facing competing criticisms of its regulations, with many industry officials charging the administration is not adequately weighing rules' economic costs while environmentalists, including at least one former EPA official, charge they are underestimating rules' benefits and overemphasizing their costs. Republicans and industry groups are likely to oppose the creation of such an agency, as they have in the past, out of concern that its findings would be vulnerable to political interference and used as a tool to justify new regulations.

In their recently issued paper, "Environmental Accounting for Pollution in the United States Economy, published in the August issue of the American Economic Review by Nicholas Muller of Middlebury College," the economists found air pollution costs from some industries outweighed the value they added back into the economy, which they argue justifies the need for improved federal accounting of pollution control rules and their benefits.

Lawmakers, including Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Bobby Rush (D-IL), have seized on the paper's findings that some industrial facilities, including those for solid waste combustion, sewage treatment, stone quarrying, marinas, and oil and coal-fired power plants, "have air pollution damages larger than their value added." In particular, the paper found that damages from air pollution from coal-fired electric generation could be up to 5.6 times value added.

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