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Articles by Lisa Heinzerling

Lisa Heinzerling is a Professor of Law at Georgetown University and author, with Frank Ackerman, of Priceless: On Knowing the Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing, published in 2004 by The New Press.

Featured Article

On Friday, President Obama announced that he had asked EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to withdraw the final National Ambient Air Quality Standard (known as a “NAAQS”) for ozone pollution, which she and her expert agency had sent to the White House for review. The president’s announcement is terribly bad news, and terribly bad policy, on several scores.

1. Law: The reason the president gave for asking EPA to withdraw its standard is an unlawful reason. President Obama explained that while his administration has taken actions (some only proposed) to strengthen protections under the Clean Air Act, he has, “[a]t the same time … continued to underscore the importance of reducing regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty, particularly as our economy continues to recover.”

“With that in mind,” he explained, he had asked Administrator Jackson to withdraw the standards she had submitted to the White House. But the Supreme Court has unequivocally held that the Clean Air Act forbids the consideration of economic costs in setting the NAAQS. I suppose someone could argue that because the president decided only not to let EPA r... Read more

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  • Lisa Heinzerling responds to Richard Revesz on cost-benefit analysis

    The efficient wasteland

    In his essay, Richard Revesz argues in favor of a "cost-benefit environmentalism" that embraces economic analysis and "uses both reason and compassion to justify strong environmental rules." It is wonderful to have such a prominent fan of cost-benefit analysis explicitly embrace environmental values; this doesn't happen every day. The trouble is, however, that cost-benefit analysis is at odds with fundamental premises of environmentalism, and it's not particularly good at either reason or compassion.

    Environmentalism has many subtleties and variations, but I think most environmentalists share certain core beliefs. They are convinced that the future matters -- that we should protect the earth and its inhabitants into the indefinite future. They worry about other people and other living creatures and about their own complicity in causing others' suffering through environmental degradation. They prefer concreteness over abstraction: They don't just want to read about nature; they want to experience it. They understand the reasons that reason cannot know: the small shiver of joy upon seeing spring's first warbler, the glimpse of the infinite in a summer storm.