U.S. EPA Touts 2018 Pollution Improvements, Superfund Site Reductions, and Regulatory Cost Savings

Published March 6, 2019

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) efforts to streamline and reduce regulatory burdens have saved businesses and consumers billions of dollars while continuing to protect public health and safety and improving environmental outcomes, the agency states in its 2018 “Year in Review” report highlighting the EPA’s accomplishments for the year.

Saving Money, Environment

During Donald Trump’s presidency so far, EPA has finalized 33 major deregulatory actions, 13 in 2018 alone, EPA Year in Review 2018 reports. These regulatory reforms have saved American businesses and consumers approximately $2 billion so far, EPA reports.

Air quality has continued to improve under Trump, and the agency has cleaned up the largest number of Superfund sites—locations contaminated with hazardous materials regulated under the 1980 Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act—in more than a decade, states EPA’s report, released in January 2019. Removing these sites from the Superfund list allows them to be redeveloped and put back into productive use.

“Over the past year, the Trump Administration has continued to deliver on its promises to the American public,” Andrew Wheeler, EPA’s acting administrator, writes in his introduction to the report. “Not only are the economic prospects of Americans brighter and improving by the day, but so are environmental and public health conditions.

“Under President Trump, America is on a path to a stronger, safer, and cleaner future,” Wheeler writes. “Over the past year, we finalized 13 major deregulatory actions, deleted all or part of 22 sites from Superfund’s National Priorities List—the largest number of deletions in one year since [Fiscal Year] 2005—and continued to safeguard our nation’s water supply as well as make historic improvements in air quality.”

Improving Agency Science

EPA took several steps to improve the science the agency uses to determine when public health and safety are at risk from industrial activities, to clarify when EPA is legally justified in regulating an activity, and to ensure regulations issued to reduce risks impose the least costs necessary to meet the established goal.

Among those actions, in December 2018, working in conjunction with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, EPA revised its Waters of the United States Rule (WOTUS) in line with the law and Supreme Court decisions limiting EPA’s authority, to clarify which waters fall under federal jurisdiction and which are appropriately regulated by states. The goal of EPA’s new WOTUS rule is to protect water quality while providing certainty to farmers, landowners, and states regarding which actions require federal approval and which do not.

Listening to Skeptical Scientists

Under Trump, EPA has diversified the type of experts serving on its advisory committees, to expand the range of knowledge and experience brought to bear on clean air, clean water, and climate concerns, says Marlo Lewis, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute, which publishes Environment & Climate News.

“EPA instituted a major overhaul of its advisory committees, improving the independence, regional breadth, and viewpoint diversity of the experts who advise the agency on the science used in rulemakings,” Lewis said. “For example, EPA appointed University of Alabama in Huntsville atmospheric scientist Dr. John Christy, a noted climate skeptic, to serve on the agency’s Science Advisory Board.

“In 2019, EPA will finalize its Clean Power Plan repeal proposal,” said Lewis. “That will officially end the Obama-era EPA’s economically destructive war on fossil fuels and deter future attempts to inflate the agency into a national energy czar.”

Ensuring Safer Vehicles

Teaming up with the U.S. Department of Transportation, the EPA is moving to enact the proposed Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles rule. EPA says the SAFE rule should make cars more affordable while continuing to improve their safety and reduce emissions. EPA estimates SAFE will reduce the average ownership cost for new vehicles by approximately $2,340 per vehicle and lower overall regulatory costs to the economy by approximately $252.6 billion through 2029.

Lewis says the SAFE rule will save people’s lives as well as money.

“SAFE will roll back the Obama administration’s motor vehicle greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards, avoiding hundreds of billions of dollars in compliance costs and thousands of traffic-related fatalities,” said Lewis. “In addition, SAFE will end California’s unlawful power to regulate fuel economy, increasing the likelihood in future administrations EPA and DOT appropriately consider the detrimental effects fuel economy mandates have on vehicle affordability and occupant safety.”

‘The Right Direction’

By reducing economic costs while continuing to improve environmental quality, EPA’s successful regulatory reform efforts under Andrew Wheeler show the United States can have the best of both worlds—economic prosperity and a clean environment—says Nick Loris, a research fellow at The Heritage Foundation and a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute.

“Under Acting Administrator Wheeler’s leadership, the Environmental Protection Agency has shown that economic growth and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive,” said Loris. “It’s encouraging to see a commonsense approach that respects the role and rights of states and people in protecting the environment.

“Amending and eliminating heavy-handed regulations the previous administration had enacted that imposed high costs to households and businesses, restricted choice, and were devoid of any meaningful environmental benefit is taking America in the right direction,” Loris said.

Linnea Lueken ([email protected]) writes from South Carolina.


United States Environmental Protection Agency Year in Review 2018, January 16, 2019: https://heartland.org/publications-resources/publications/us-environmental-protection-agency-year-in-review-2018