Regulatory Science and Policy: A Case Study of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards Open Access

When it comes to environmental regulation, no one is immune to the temptation to put a spin on science to advance a policy goal. While the media will decry the politicization of science – when political decision-makers attempt to distort what scientific studies conclude, problems also arise when scientists and others attempt to exert influence on policy decisions by selectively presenting, or even distorting, scientific findings (scientization of policy). This paper focuses on the scientization of policy, and defines and examines two contributors: the “positive-normative fallacy” (not acknowledging that science alone is insufficient to resolve normative policy questions) and “hidden policy judgments” (not acknowledging the policy judgments inherent in assessments of risk). It examines the process by which the Environmental Protection Agency sets National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) under the Clean Air Act to illustrate some of the perverse incentives involved in developing regulations, and offers possible mechanisms to improve those incentives and resulting policy.

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