In May, the Environmental Protection Agency lowered its “value of a statistical life” measure to $6.9 million in today’s dollars, which is “a drop of nearly $1 million from just five years ago.” In other words, in the eyes of the EPA, the value of a human life has decreased. Here’s what the change means:
Though it may seem like a harmless bureaucratic recalculation, the devaluation has real consequences.
When drawing up regulations, government agencies put a value on human life and then weigh the costs versus the lifesaving benefits of a proposed rule. The less a life is worth to the government, the less the need for a regulation, such as tighter restrictions on pollution.
Critics say that the Bush administration is “changing the value to avoid tougher rules.” “It’s hard to imagine that it has other than a political motivation,” said former senior EPA official Dan Esty.