The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should continue to work with stakeholders, particularly the general public, in efforts to identify their values and concerns in order to determine which uncertainties in other factors, along with those in the health risk assessment, should be analyzed, factored into the decision-making process, and communicated.
The nature of stakeholder participation in and input to a decision depends on the type of stakeholder. The regulated industry, local business communities, and environmental activists (including those at the local level, if they exist) are more likely to be proactively engaged in providing input on pending regulations. The general public, without encouragement or assistance from EPA (or local environmental regulatory departments), is less likely to participate effectively or at all in such activities. One means to bridge the gap in understanding the values of the public is a formal research program.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should fund or conduct methodological research on ways to measure public values. This could allow decision makers to systematically assess and better explain the role that public sentiment and other factors that are difficult to quantify play in the decision-making process.
Framework for Incorporating Uncertainty in Decision Making
Uncertainty analysis must be designed on a case-by-case basis. The choice of uncertainty analysis depends on the context of the decision, including the nature or type of uncertainty, and the factors that are considered in the decision (that is, health risk, technological and economic factors, public sentiment, and the political context), as well as on the data that are available. Most environmental problems will require the use of multiple approaches to uncertainty analysis. As a result, a mix of statistical analyses and expert judgments will be needed.
A sensible, decision-driven, and resource-responsible approach to uncertainty analyses that includes decision makers and stakeholders is needed. Such a process will help ensure that the goals of the uncertainty analysis are consistent with the needs of the decision makers and the values and