In Whitman v. American Trucking, the Supreme Court interpreted the Clean Air Act to require the EPA to set the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), without considering costs. Instead, the agency must rely exclusively on health-related criteria. The authors argue that such health-based standards are problematic because there is no coherent way to set the permissible level of pollution based on health considerations alone and, ironically, the NAAQS have generally been set at levels that are inefficiently lax from an economic perspective. The authors urge a reinterpretation of the American Trucking case that would allow the EPA to consider costs-benefit analysis when it would lead to more stringent standards, as it currently does for most regulated pollutants.
A final version of “Rethinking Health Based Standards” was published by the NYU Law Review in October 2014.