Keywords: risk analysis, benefit-cost analysis, comparative risk, environmental law
Analytic methods for environmental regulations in the United States: promises, pitfalls and politics
Decision-making about environmental protection and public health is challenging because of the need to balance the probabilities, magnitudes, and characteristics of potential adverse consequences. A variety of principles are often invoked in an attempt to simplify the decision, but by neglecting important elements of the problem, many of these principles prove to be inadequate. Maximisation of the expected net benefits of a decision appears to be the most useful principle in that it can provide guidance across a wide range of environmental decisions. However, use of this principle requires structured quantitative analysis and supporting data to characterise the expected net benefits reasonably. A variety of analytic methods, which differ in their comprehensiveness and focus, are reviewed and evaluated to determine how they may be used to inform environmental decision-making. Institutional obstacles to better use of quantitative analysis and means by which they could be overcome are also considered.