EPA Cuts the Value of a Life by $1M

Statistical trim makes life-saving regulation harder to justify
By Peter Fearon,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 11, 2008 4:13 AM CDT
The Four Corners Power Plant near Fruitland, New Mexico routinely ranks No. 1 on dirty-power lists compiled from emissions reports to the EPA.    (AP Photo/Paul Foy)
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(Newser) – The Environmental Protection Agency has quietly reduced the hypothetical value of a human life by almost a million dollars to $6.9 million, reports the AP. The figure is used in cost benefit analyses to weigh the life-saving potential of environmental protection policies. Placing a lower value on human life could be used to justify avoiding costly regulations.

Critics charge that the Bush administration has manipulated the numbers to dodge environmental protections. "It appears that they're cooking the books in regard to the value of life," says the director a group which represents local air pollution regulators. "Those decisions are literally a matter of life and death." An EPA official says the adjustment was  based on better economic studies reflecting consumer preferences. "It's our best estimate of what consumers are willing to pay to reduce similar risks to their own lives."