New EPA Rule Will Require Cost Analysis for Clean Air Act Rulemaking

At a virtual event on Wednesday, Andrew Wheeler, Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), announced that a rule designed to improve the Clean Air Act (CAA) rulemaking process had been finalized. The rule will require each CAA rule to have a cost-benefit analysis before it is approved. 

The EPA’s press release on the subject said the rule would “help ensure that Clean Air Act rules are analyzed consistently, transparently, and appropriately.” Reportedly, the rule will also give more clarity to states, communities, industries, and stakeholders on how the EPA considers various rules. 

Wheeler said “Today’s action ensures that EPA is consistent in evaluating costs and benefits when developing broad-reaching policies that affect the American public … we are ensuring that future rulemakings under the Clean Air Act are transparent, fair, and consistent with EPA governing statutes, the American public deserves to know the benefits and costs of federal regulations.”

The CAA contains language about cost considerations, but until this change did not have regulations to ensure that a cost-benefit analysis was consistently done by the EPA. This rule would ensure consistent procedures, and give transparency to rulemaking actions under the CAA, the release said. 

The rule received some criticism from environmental groups. The Environmental Defense Fund said it would create challenges for future administrations seeking to address air pollution and would put Americans’ health at risk.  The organization’s press release said, “today’s final rule sets arbitrary requirements for demonstrating the benefits of clean air protections, but does not set the same requirements for claims about the costs of protections skewing the results of agency analyses. It also imposes new regulatory requirements that overlook the benefits of clean air safeguards and threatens EPA’s ability to do its job.” 

Rich Nolan, CEO and president of the National Mining Association, said he was in favor of the rule in a press release. “In the past, cost-benefit analysis was improperly used to target the coal industry through unjustifiable regulations that imposed tremendous compliance costs that significantly outweighed the environmental benefits.  We look forward to these clarifications and new procedures taking hold to provide a far more transparent regulatory process and fair accounting practices for the future.”

The final rule can be viewed on the EPA’s website along with guidance documents created to add additional transparency to the process.