New study finds EPA mercury analysis is 'seriously flawed'

April 09, 2020

WASHINGTON, DC--An article published in Science magazine finds deep flaws in the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s benefit-cost analysis in support of a proposed rule related to the regulation of hazardous air pollution from coal-burning power plants. The analysis forms part of the foundation for a regulatory proposal to roll back the legal underpinnings of its Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), which power plants have been complying with since 2016, leaving the standards vulnerable to legal challenges.

Researchers from Harvard, Yale, Claremont McKenna College, UC Berkeley, Georgetown, and Resources for the Future (RFF), claim that EPA "ignores scientific evidence, economic best practice, and its own guidance" in the new analysis. The authors assert that EPA "can and should do better."

"The EPA's new analysis of the cost and benefits of the MATS rule is clearly insufficient. It fails to account for advances in our understanding of the negative health impacts of mercury and changes in electricity generation since 2011, which have led to much lower compliance costs than were originally projected," says RFF Senior Fellow Karen Palmer, a coauthor on the paper. "And, it dismisses an entire category of benefits."

The authors highlight the following flaws in EPA's analysis: "If finalized, the new rule will undermine continued implementation of MATS and set a concerning precedent for use of similarly inappropriate analyses in the evaluation of other regulations," the authors state.
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The new article was written by Joseph Aldy (Harvard University and RFF), Matthew Kotchen (Yale University), Mary Evans (Claremont McKenna College), Meredith Fowlie (University of California, Berkeley), Arik Levinson (Georgetown University), and Karen Palmer (RFF).

Resources for the Future (RFF)

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