Assessing Impacts of EPA's Regulations Through Retrospective Studies
RCED-99-250: Published: Sep 14, 1999. Publicly Released: Sep 14, 1999.
Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on efforts to assess the economic impact of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) regulations to enhance environmental quality, focusing on: (1) to what extent EPA's regulations have been the subject of retrospective studies; (2) whether retrospective studies are viewed as useful or difficult to do; and (3) ways to foster such studies in the future.
- Review Pending
- Closed - implemented
- Closed - not implemented
Recommendation for Executive Action
Recommendation: To help determine if existing environmental regulations need to be retained or improved, the Administrator, EPA, should establish a plan to study the actual costs and benefits of such regulations, including when and how to use retrospective studies as an integral part of its approach. The plan should target selected regulations for review based on a systematic identification of candidate regulations, an assessment of the feasibility of studying those regulations retrospectively, and an identification of the resources needed.
Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency
Status: Closed - Not Implemented
Comments: While EPA states that it supports economic research and analysis to investigate the economic costs and benefits of federal government regulations, EPA does not agree with GAO's recommendation to develop a plan to study the actual costs and benefits of its environmental regulations and target selected regulations for review. EPA believes that such retrospective studies are best suited at measuring aggregate expenditures for all environmental requirements and are not well suited to evaluating the costs and benefits of specific regulations. In addition, EPA cites difficulties in conducting retrospective studies. EPA notes that it has attempted some retrospective analyses of the benefits and costs of its regulations at the "program" level such as the 1997 and 1999 reports to Congress on the costs and benefits of the the Clean Air Act and the 1990 amendments and that other similar efforts are being pursued for other agency programs, in part to support OMB's requirements to report to Congress on the costs and benefits of all federal regulations.