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Researcher says EPA's cost-benefit analysis of revised lead & copper rule falls short

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

A Harvard researcher says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is underestimating the benefits of the 2021 revision of the federal lead and copper rule.

The federal regulation — called the Lead and Copper Drinking Water Rule — governing lead in drinking water underwent a major revision after the Flint water crisis.

In its cost-benefit analysis, the EPA estimated the revised regulation costs $335 million to implement and will generate $645 million in annual health benefits.

But a study from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health found the new rule generates billions in annual benefits.

“EPA has signaled that they don’t think it’s important, and that’s wrong,” said Ronnie Levin, the study's lead author.

According to the analysis, the revised lead and copper rule generates $9.2 billion in health damages avoided each year, plus between $2.4 billion and $7.8 billion in infrastructure damages avoided — far beyond the EPA's cost-benefit analysis that posited only $645 million annually in avoided health damages. The EPA’s analysis was based on monetization of only one health endpoint, Levin said.

The final version of the study was posted online May 4, 2023, and will be published in the July 15, 2023 edition of Environmental Research.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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