CALL SCRIPT

Example Comment Script

Note: It is best to personalize or modify the wording (without changing its meaning). You do not need to be an expert to submit your comments.

My family and I have benefited from the protections that EPA has put in place to reduce air and water pollution and to reduce toxics in products and the environment. These protections were developed using methods that fairly calculated the benefits and costs of implementing a regulation.

If EPA proposes to change its methods, it should cite the legal basis for the proposal. EPA should justify why changes are necessary, legal and appropriate to the purpose of its mission. It should provide a justification for why it proposes to put cost-benefit methods into regulation, rather than guidance, and what statute(s) authorizes such regulations. Setting out analytical procedures in a regulation prevents easily updating the procedures to incorporate advances in this field of expertise. Establishing a “consistent” approach, as suggested in the notice, would be counter to the specific criteria identified in each environmental statute and legally inappropriate.

EPA’s current “Guidelines for Preparing Economic Analyses” (Guidelines) was developed and peer-reviewed by experts in environmental economics and is supported by 43 pages of listed references. The Guidelines already address many of the questions raised in EPA’s current notice. For example, the notice mentions a perceived lack of transparency; however, the Guidelines include a robust principle of transparency. EPA should provide evidence that its analyses and procedures lack transparency. If the changes considered in EPA’s notice were made it would make the cost-benefit analyses less transparent, as described below.

EPA asks if the benefits that can be achieved if pollutants are below current emission levels should be included in analyses. It asks if co-benefits should be included. When the best science shows that such health and environmental benefits exist, EPA would present a false picture if it did not quantify those benefits. If EPA were to eliminate co-benefits from its analyses but continue to include co-costs it would improperly bias the information. EPA should provide the legal justification for making changes that understate any benefits.

EPA suggests that it could re-assess the benefits and costs of regulations that have already been implemented after making the changes considered in this notice, presumably to weaken or eliminate those protections. EPA should provide the legal basis and justification for rolling back protections that have been analyzed using appropriate environmental economics methods and shown to protect the public and the environment.

If the changes considered in EPA’s notice were made it would make the cost-benefit analyses less transparent, bias results and cause real harm to health and the environment.

Action

Submit your comment here by July 13 to oppose Pruitt’s attempt to understate benefits but emphasize costs when considering environmental safeguards.

His ideas have far reaching consequences and would dangerously tie EPA’s hands in establishing scientifically-based health and environmental protections. EPA is required to publish responses to public comments. By raising specific issues in your comments you are requiring the Agency to address these issues and potentially providing support for a future suit against EPA.

Background

Coupled with Pruitt’s efforts to reduce EPA’s use of science for regulatory decisions, and his pattern of rolling back environmental protections, this proposal would make implementing accurately analyzed, science-based environmental and health protections virtually impossible.

EPA has issued a notice of request for public comment on how and whether the Agency should change the way it calculates the benefits and costs of environmental protections (regulations). These analyses are critical to Agency decisions. EPA asks how cost-benefit analyses could be more “consistent and transparent” and whether it should “proscribe specific analytic approaches” to quantifying costs and benefits. The notice suggests a number of possible changes which, if made, would result in falsely understating the benefits of regulatory safeguards while emphasizing the costs. It would make it much more difficult to gain public support for new protections and would provide a pretext for rolling back existing safeguards.

The notice suggests, for example, not allowing evaluation of the enormous co-benefits of a rule (when one target pollutant is reduced, others are often reduced, too, sometimes by a lot); whether benefits should only be reported if they are above a current emission limit (emission limits are often made more stringent over time to reflect new science or give industry time to adapt); whether the cumulative costs and benefits of multiple regulations should be quantified; whether EPA should review cost-benefit analyses of regulations that have already been implemented (presumably using the changes contemplated in this notice); and whether it could evaluate costs in programs where the implementing law does not require it.

Cost-benefit analytical methods are most appropriately compiled into guidelines, rather than into regulations, which have the force of law. As guidelines they can be updated to incorporate new developments in environmental economics and they provide the flexibility to adapt to a wide variety of situations and incorporate professional judgment. Regulations, set up grounds for industry to sue EPA over questions of whether the regulations were followed, thereby holding up putting the protections into place.

Even more info…. When environmental laws require cost-benefit analyses, they specify the factors to be considered depending on the purpose of the law. They may specify costs and benefits to public health or to wildlife protection or to scenic values, for example. The laws that require financial costs to be considered differ in how they should be weighed. They may require that regulations not impose an undue burden or that they be economically achievable. Others must protect public health without regard to costs. In nearly every case, the law directs EPA to prioritize environmental and public health protections ahead of industry profits and other economic factors. Many studies show that the benefits of protective regulations usually far outweigh the cost by business and industry of implementing them. The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under both democratic and republican administrations has agreed.

See also our action on Saving Science at EPA.

More Information

Save EPA
“Denying the Health Benefits of Pollution Reduction”, Harvard Environmental Law Program, 2018.
Center for Progressive Reform.
“Don’t Believe the Job Killer Hype,” Environmental Integrity Project
“Can EPA Maintain Its Mission?”, Harvard Environmental Law Program, 2018.