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GAO: EPA Used 20-Year-Old Jobs Data To Justify Regulations

How old is too old for employment data? Well, the Environmental Protection Agency has been using decades old economic data to analyze regulations, according to a government watchdog report.

The Government Accountability Office reported the EPA “estimated effects of its regulations on employment, in part, using a study that… was based on data that were more than 20 years old and may not have represented the regulated entities addressed” in its regulatory impact analyses (RIAs).

EPA officials told the GAO that the 20-year-old data “represented the best reasonably obtainable data” when they were analyzing regulations, and that “they are exploring new approaches for analyzing these effects but were uncertain about when such results would be available.”

“Without improvements in its estimates, EPA’s RIAs may be limited in their usefulness for helping decision makers and the public understand these important effects,” GAO noted in its report, released this week.

When crafting major regulations on industrial boilers, commercial incinerators and technology for waste-water discharges, the agency estimated the impacts its rules would have on jobs using a study looking at labor markets from 1979 to 1991 — decades before the EPA finalized any of these rules.

“EPA’s analysis of the net change in jobs represents an assessment of the distribution of the benefits and costs among different groups in society, distinct from the analysis of the net social benefits of regulatory alternatives,” the GAO said.

The EPA used a study based on “information that considered the effect of regulations on employment for certain years from 1979 through 1991” that only looked at “four industrial sectors.”

Shockingly, EPA officials admitted they last used the decades-old data in June 2013 to analyze job impacts from its regulations, and that the study “continues to provide a theoretical framework for EPA’s consideration of employment effects” in regulatory analyses.

The GAO report was prepared for House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican, who has been looking into waste, fraud and abuse at the EPA. Previous investigations by Issa found that EPA employees were watching copious amounts of porn on the job and were falsifying federal documents.

“How much pornography would it take for an EPA employee to lose his job?” Issa grilled EPA officials in a House hearing from April. “You are running an organization from which no one can get fired.”

The GAO’s most recent report not only found the EPA was using outdated employment data to analyze its rules, but also that the agency “did not monetize certain benefits and costs related to the primary purposes or key impacts” of rules reviewed by GAO.