Lieberman Calls Revised Cost-Benefit Guidelines Immoral Tool to Block Tougher Environmental Protections

WASHINGTON – Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., Monday condemned the Administration’s revised guidelines for the economic analysis of federal regulations, saying they are biased against environmental protection and, in particular, against protecting the sick and the elderly from harmful air, water and ground pollution.

The guidelines are contained within the Office of Management and Budget’s Annual Cost-Benefit Report to Congress, issued Monday. Every agency must conduct a cost and benefit analysis of regulations before they are approved by the Administration. The revised guidelines instruct agencies not to use a particular technique for discounting the value of older Americans’ lives directly. Instead, they advocate other, more roundabout ways to reach similar results.

“It is unconscionable that the Administration continues to push agencies to evaluate pollution-control proposals on the basis of the life-expectancies of the individuals who are protected,” Lieberman said. “Judging people who are less worth protecting based on their age and poor health – and to do so for the benefit of polluters – is not just preposterous. It is immoral.”

In a May 20, 2003, letter to Dr. John Graham, director of OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Lieberman asked Graham to renounce the repugnant so-called “senior discount” policy, which assigned a discounted value to Americans over 70 in analyzing proposals to control pollution. This Administration faced a firestorm of criticism from angry seniors, and Dr. Graham, who had devised the policy, beat a hasty retreat by telling agencies to stop using that particular senior discount.

The new guidelines reinforce the broader bias against the environment inherent in economic cost-benefit analysis, which can give short shrift to unquantifiable values of human health and a strong ecology, while overestimating the economic costs to polluters.

“By lowering the calculated economic benefit of protecting the elderly and the frail, these techniques will understate the apparent benefits of environmental protection, because the old and frail are among the most vulnerable to respiratory and other diseases caused by pollution,” Lieberman said. “The intended result will be to block tougher environmental protections.”