The EPA's Risky Reasoning

8 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2004 Last revised: 15 Dec 2017

See all articles by Cary Coglianese

Cary Coglianese

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School

Gary E. Marchant

Arizona State University - College of Law

Date Written: 2004


Regulators must rely on science to understand problems and predict the consequences of regulatory actions, but science by itself cannot justify public policy decisions. We review the Environmental Protection Agency's efforts to justify recent changes to its National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone and particulate matter, showing how the agency was able to cloak its policy judgments under the guise of scientific objectivity. By doing so, the EPA evaded accountability for a shifting and incoherent set of policy positions that will have major implications for public health and the economy. For example, even though EPA claimed to base its revised standards on a singular concern for public health, it set the new standards at levels that will still lead to hundreds, if not thousands, of deaths each year. The EPA's claim to rely solely on science contributed to positions that ultimately failed to meet the law's aspiration of reasoned decision-making by administrative agencies.

Keywords: Environmental Protection Agency, air quality, air quality standards, EPA, regulation, Clean Air Act, public health, pollution, National Ambient Air Quality Standards, environmental regulation, administrative law, judicial review

JEL Classification: Q38

Suggested Citation

Coglianese, Cary and Marchant, Gary E., The EPA's Risky Reasoning (2004). KSG Working Paper No. RWP04-046, Available at SSRN:

Cary Coglianese (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School ( email )

3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States
215-898-6867 (Phone)


Gary E. Marchant

Arizona State University - College of Law ( email )

Box 877906
Tempe, AZ 85287-7906
United States
(480) 965-3246 (Phone)
(480) 965-2427 (Fax)

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