Do We Still Need the EPA?
Many large bureaucratic organizations are inefficient, but the EPA is in a class by itself. The EPA is incompetent and wasteful, and it often does more harm than good. It’s time for it to go.
The EPA’s ever-expanding regulations impose huge costs—about $350 billion annually, according to the Competitive Enterprise Institute—on U.S. businesses and, ultimately, on consumers. Many of these regulations are unnecessary. The EPA also misuses taxpayer money, sometimes diverting funds meant for research to things like public relations consultants to burnish its image instead.
Worst of all, the EPA has severely damaged the nation’s competitiveness. Over the decades, the agency has killed off promising innovations in which the U.S. could have been the world’s leader, such as biotech micro-organisms that could clean up toxic waste, including oil spills, and the development of bacteria to protect plants from frost.
Instead, the EPA spends more and more money to address smaller and smaller risks. In one analysis by the federal Office of Management and Budget, of the 30 least cost-effective regulations—in other words, the most wasteful ones throughout the government—the EPA had imposed 17 of them.
Consider, for example, the EPA’s Superfund program to clean up toxic-waste sites. That may sound like an obviously good idea, but after spending tens of billions of dollars on the program, studies have found few benefits. In fact, an analysis of the hazards of environmental cleanup projects by the University of California Davis found that the risk of fatality to the average cleanup worker—a dump truck driver involved in a collision, for example—is considerably larger than the cancer risks to individual residents that might result from exposure to untreated sites.
In other words, EPA’s Superfund program kills more Americans than it protects.
I’m a scientist—both a doctor and a molecular biologist. And I believe that our air and water should be protected from pollution and that the use of pesticides should be regulated. But these essential functions could be performed by other agencies more effectively. It’s time to abolish the EPA.