Harris and Broun Question Administration’s Environmental Cost-Benefit Analyses

Nov 15, 2011

Washington DC – Today, Dr. Andy Harris (R-MD), Chairman of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee, and Dr. Paul Broun (R-GA), Chairman of the Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee, sent a letter to Mr. Cass Sunstein, Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), questioning the scientific and economic accounting practices used to justify numerous Clean Air Act rules by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).   The letter follows up on questions raised at recent hearings on EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, and the use of science by the Agency and the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee when setting ambient air quality standards.

Noting that OIRA is currently reviewing new EPA regulations such as Utility MACT that are expected to cost tens of billions of dollars, the Members implore Administrator Sunstein to follow President Obama’s instructions to “give careful scrutiny to all regulations that impose significant costs on the private sector or on state, local, or tribal governments.”

The letter requests detailed information on OIRA’s oversight of EPA regulations and information quality, raises concerns about a lack of transparency and adequate peer review, inflating health benefits through double-counting and questionable accounting practices, understating compliance costs, and ignoring negative health impacts resulting from burdensome regulation. 

The Chairmen state that “these required cost-benefit analyses appear designed to provide political cover for a more stringent regulatory agenda rather than to objectively inform policy decisions.”  In their questions, they cite numerous examples in which EPA’s cost-benefit analyses violate the spirit and letter of executive orders governing regulatory reform, EPA and Office of Management and Budget standards for peer review and regulatory analysis, and Sunstein’s own guidelines for OIRA and EPA processes. 

Appended to the letter is a chart provided by the Congressional Research Service illustrating that EPA has attempted to justify nearly all recent Clean Air Act regulations on the basis of coincidental co-benefits associated with fine particulate matter. 

To read the full letter CLICK HERE