gard, primarily in its application of economic analysis, but the committee notes three important needs for improvement—the need to better integrate social, economic, behavioral, and decision science in decisions; the need for a renewed research effort to update and enhance health and ecosystem valuation and benefits; and the need for substantially improved staff expertise in this field, especially in the social, behavioral, and decision sciences (see the discussion on this topic in the section “Strengthening Science Capacity” in Chapter 5).
Integrating Social, Economic, Behavioral, and Decision Science Skills
Social, economic, behavioral, and decision sciences can serve many functions that are crucial for meeting legislative and executive mandates and for finding pathways to realize EPA’s mission cost-effectively and equitably. But even if the gaps are addressed, the benefits of using economics, social, behavioral, and decision sciences in EPA cannot be fully realized unless these areas of expertise are genuinely integrated into EPA decision-making and decision support. The gaps identified by the committee are compounded further by the need for tools to address systems-level impacts—which are often highly uncertain in nature (such as indirect but interconnected impacts of a particular decision or activity)—and solutions that address root causes of problems.
The process of developing a total maximum daily load (TMDL) for the Chesapeake Bay is an example in which EPA conducted high-quality environmental science but did not adequately integrate social, economic, behavioral, and decision sciences. The TMDL calls for reductions in nitrogen (by 25%), phosphorus (by 24%), and sediment (by 20%) to restore the bay by 2025 and allocates load reductions in its major tributaries to the bay (EPA 2010b). The TMDL can be viewed as a triumph of EPA-led environmental science. The agency initiated and led research to understand the effects of human activity on the bay’s waters and living resources and to provide a scientific foundation for measures to restore the bay beginning in the 1970s. That research has been crucial for the development of the science that underpins the TMDL, but the TMDL was developed without studies of the benefits and costs. EPA’s National Center for Environmental Economics and its Chesapeake Bay program are only now conducting benefit—cost assessments of the TMDL, which are too late to inform its specification. Furthermore, and perhaps even more problematic, EPA has neither conducted nor sponsored substantial social, economic, behavioral, and decision science research on fundamental policy questions related to inducing the behavioral changes that are essential for achieving the TMDL.
Updating and Enhancing Estimates of Environmental Benefits
Among the social, economic, behavioral, and decision sciences, only economics is generally mandated in EPA. Regulatory impact assessments to determine the benefits and costs of environmental regulation are mandated by various