Let’s Abolish the Most Effective Agency in the Country!

The Environmental Protection Agency is the prime target of a lot of right-wing conspiracy theories: some have suggested that the agency plans to regulate human respiration, while others worry that it’s secretly plotting to infringe upon the right to bear arms. But as a new report from the White House Office of Management and Budget shows, the EPA actually has the best track record among the agencies when it comes to setting rules whose pluses outnumber the minuses. True, the EPA’s rules do often come at higher costs than those of most agencies, but the benefits still far outweigh them:

It should be clear that the rules with the highest benefits and the highest costs, by far, come from the Environmental Protection Agency and in particular its Office of Air. More specifically, EPA rules account for 62 to 84 percent of the monetized benefits and 46 to 53 percent of the monetized costs. The rules that aim to improve air quality account for 95 to 97 percent of the benefits of EPA rules.

Of the 20 air rules that have come from the office in the last 10 years, the Clean Air Fine Particle Implementation Rule stands out as the most beneficial—it saves $19 billion to $167 billion every year because the public isn’t being exposed to harmful air pollution. This came at a cost of just $7.3 billion per year. Overall, the report documented 32 major federal rules from the EPA in the past decade, which saved the economy up to $550.7 billion, at a cost of somewhere between $23.3 billion and $28.5 billion.

So while Republican presidential candidates are talking about abolishing the agency (see: Michele Bachmann and Newt Gingrich), it’s a helpful reminder that the agency actually exists for a reason and is arguably the most economically beneficial of government entities. If you like breathing, that is.


Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn’t fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation so we can keep on doing the type of journalism that 2018 demands.

Donate Now
  • Kate Sheppard was a staff reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau from 2009 to 2013. She is now a senior reporter and the energy and environment editor at The Huffington Post. She can be reached by email at kate (dot) sheppard (at) huffingtonpost (dot) com and you can follow her on Twitter @kate_sheppard.