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USC economist named to new independent committee focused on U.S. environmental policy

Antonio Bento, professor of public policy and economics at the USC Price School of Public Policy, was named an inaugural member of the executive committee of the new research entity.

New committee to advise on federal environmental policy
In response to the number of regulatory modifications under consideration at the EPA, the newly created External Environmental Economics Advisory Committee will offer recommendations related to federal environmental policy. (Photo/iStock)

A USC economist and other academic experts have formed an independent committee to advise U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) policies after the Trump administration disbanded a similar entity.

Acting swiftly to protect the integrity of science-driven environmental policy, the newly created External Environmental Economics Advisory Committee consists of economists from USC; Yale University; Duke University; the University of California, Berkeley; UCLA; and Resources for the Future. Their self-ascribed mandate is to apply their expertise to analyze environmental policy at the federal level.

“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,” said Antonio Bento, professor of public policy and economics at the USC Price School of Public Policy and one of the inaugural members of the executive committee of the new research entity.

The new committee will operate independently of the federal government, reviewing proposed regulations and offering recommendations to help promote public health protection, economic cost-effectiveness and sound science. Functioning as an independent non-partisan research organization, the committee pledges to make its deliberations and findings accessible to the EPA and the public. Funding for the committee is provided by the Luskin Center for Innovation at UCLA, Roberts Environmental Center at Claremont McKenna College and The Sloan Foundation.

Reinforcing the link between economic research and environmental policy

The committee formed following dissolution of the Environmental Economics Advisory Committee last year, which had operated for more than 25 years within the EPA’s science advisory board structure. Like its predecessor, the new committee consists of economists who will evaluate environmental policies.

The members of the new organization believe that, despite the dissolution of the internal EPA committee, advances in economic research remain crucial to achieving sound environmental policies. They cite urgency given the large number of regulatory modifications under consideration at the EPA affecting the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and the Energy Independence and Security Act.

Under the Trump administration, the proposed rollback of fuel economy standards — and the analysis that underpinned that decision — triggered backlash by leaders in Sacramento, the environmental community and several university experts. For example, Bento demonstrated in a recent study published in Science that the cost-benefit analysis for the so-called corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards revision was substantially flawed. Bento is also the director of the USC Center for Sustainability Solutions.

The new committee intends to operate until the EPA reconstitutes an internal environmental economics advisory committee composed of independent economists. Historically, the EPA has relied on economic expertise when complying with statutes and executive orders that explicitly require the agency to assess the costs, benefits or distributional impact of regulations. Economic analysis also enhances the quality of public debate about new regulations. Policies on air pollution, climate change and water have far-reaching effects on millions of Americans and businesses.

Members of the executive committee for the new entity include: Bento at USC; Kenneth Gillingham and Matthew Kotchen at Yale; J.R DeShazo at UCLA; Meredith Fowlie at UC Berkeley; Reed Johnson at Duke; Matthew Neidell at Columbia University; Steve Newbold at University of Wyoming; Mary Evans of Claremont McKenna; V. Kerry Smith of Arizona State University; and Dallas Burtraw of Resources for the Future.

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USC economist named to new independent committee focused on U.S. environmental policy

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