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April 22, 2019

Keryy SmithASU faculty helps establish research organization to strengthen the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to assess social benefits and costs of environmental policies

Policies on air pollution, climate change and water have far-reaching effects on millions of Americans and businesses. Is the Environmental Protection Agency ─ the federal agency whose mission is to protect public health and the environment ─ using the best available economic science when designing and proposing such policy? The newly created External Environmental Economics Advisory Committee (E-EEAC) will convene nationally recognized environmental economists to ensure that it does.

"Our mission is to provide independent advice on the state-of-the-science with regard to the benefits, costs and design of the EPA’s environmental programs," stated Distinguished Sustainability Scientist Kerry Smith, who is on the executive committee of the new research organization. Smith is also an Emeritus Regents' Professor and Emeritus University Professor of Economics in the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, and is on the CAPIV Executive Committee of the Central Arizona-Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research program.

The E-EEAC formed following the dissolution in 2018 of the original Environmental Economics Advisory Committee, which had operated for over 25 years within the EPA's science advisory board structure. Like its predecessor, the E-EEAC consists of economists who apply their expertise to analyze the benefits, costs and design of environmental policies.

"The members believe that, despite the retirement of the internal committee, advances in economic research remain crucial to achieving welfare-enhancing environmental policies," said Mary Evans, professor at Claremont McKenna College and E-EEAC co-chair.

"The E-EEAC is especially needed now given the large number of regulatory modifications that EPA has, and will shortly, propose. These relate to signature elements of the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and the Energy Independence and Security Act," added E-EEAC Co-Chair JR DeShazo of the University of California, Los Angeles.

These policy changes will impact millions of Americans, firms and our ecosystems. The E-EEAC’s intent is to operate until the EPA reconstitutes an internal environmental economics advisory committee composed of independent economists.

EPA needs economic expertise when complying with statutes and executive orders that explicitly require EPA to assess the costs, benefits, or distributional impacts of regulations. Economic analysis also enhances the quality of public debate about new regulations.

The E-EEAC is structured to facilitate the provision of independent advice from experts in the field of environmental economics. Functioning as a non-partisan research organization, the E-EEAC strives to make all of its deliberations and findings easily accessible to the EPA and the public. The Sloan Foundation and UCLA's Luskin Center for Innovation have contributed funding to support this endeavor.