A new Science article outlines how the Environmental Protection Agency under the Trump administration violated its own peer-reviewed guidelines and basic principals of economic cost-benefit analysis in the 2020 Navigable Waters Protection Rule, which aimed to replace the 2015 Clean Waters Rule.

Virginia Tech Economist and article co-author Kevin Boyle says that the analysis was based on a misguided assumption that states would implement regulations if federal regulations were removed.

“There’s no research to support the statement that the states will step in, which is what the Trump-era EPA analysis asserts,” said Boyle. “In fact, our own analysis suggests that many states that the EPA categorized as being likely to step in, were actually miscategorized and would likely not step in due to legal hurdles at the state level.”

Boyle also says that the repercussions when one state chooses not to regulate can be severe because water is a flowing resource.

“The analysis has fundamental flaws from a biological and hydrological perspective of flowing waters,” Boyle said. “If one state doesn’t protect the water quality, it affects the state downstream. When you look at it from a state perspective, the state only considers their boundaries, whereas a national policy would look at it from that transboundary perspective. Economically speaking, it creates unequal competition between states – if one state does more to protect water quality, then businesses operating in that state have to operate at a higher cost than businesses in adjoining states.”


Kevin Boyle is a professor of agricultural and applied economics in the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He has focused his 30-year career on valuing natural resources, looking at issues related to air quality and fresh water. His research contributions have aided in arbitrating litigation, as well as advising environmental and government organizations, including both the U.S. EPA and the National Park Service. He holds numerous professional awards including the highest award attainable from the Association of Environmental and Research Economists.

To schedule an interview with Kevin Boyle, contact Jillian Broadwell by email, or by phone at (540) 231-9443, or Bill Foy by email, or by phone at (540) 998-0288.

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