Statements by NYU School of Law s Richard Revesz and Michael Livermore On: Supreme Court s Exxon Valdez Decision and White House Refusal to Accept EPA Conclusion On Greenhouse Gases

On June 25, the Supreme Court reduced the punitive damages award against Exxon over the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, a decision which could have a profound effect on offshore drilling. Also on June 25, The New York Times reported on the White House’s refusal to open an e-mail from the Environmental Protection Agency that contained the agency’s recommendation that greenhouse gases are pollutants that must be controlled. The EPA had conducted a cost-benefit analysis concluding that emission cuts would generate between $500 billion and $2 trillion in net benefits over the next three decades.

The following are statements on the above topics from Richard Revesz, dean and Lawrence King Professor of Law at New York University School of Law and faculty director of the law school’s Institute for the Study of Regulation (ISR), and Michael Livermore, ISR’s executive director. Revesz and Livermore are co-authors of Retaking Rationality: How Cost-Benefit Analysis Can Better Protect the Environment and Our Health, published last month by Oxford University Press. The book advocates using properly conducted cost-benefit analysis as a tool to advance socially beneficial regulation.


Statement by Richard Revesz

“The Supreme Court’s decision to limit punitive damages in the Valdez case casts a further pall over efforts to restart offshore oil drilling. By limiting damages, the Court has reduced the incentive to use extra care when transporting oil through environmentally sensitive waters, making offshore drilling an even riskier proposition.”

Statement by Michael Livermore

“President Bush and Senator McCain should re-evaluate their support for offshore oil drilling in light of the Court’s decision. The Exxon Valdez oil spill was an environmental disaster of the first order. If juries are limited in the punishment they can mete out for such irresponsible conduct, we need to think twice about opening up further oil exploration under the ocean.”


Statement by Richard Revesz

“The decision to ignore the EPA’s advice is part of a long tradition in this Administration of disregarding or abusing cost-benefit analysis in order to justify its political decisions. For an Administration ostensibly committed to cost-benefit analysis, the decision to disregard it when it doesn’t agree with their pre-ordained choices speaks volumes.”

Statement by Michael Livermore

“Once again, the Bush Administration has ignored its own experts, and the American economy, environment, and public health will suffer. While it should come as no surprise at this point, the lengths the Administration will go to avoid information that conflicts with its political choices is truly staggering.”

Reporters interested in speaking with Revesz or Livermore should contact Jason Casell, NYU’s Office of Public Affairs, at 212.998.6849 or

Editors Note

The Institute for the Study of Regulation (ISR), a non-partisan advocacy organization and think tank located at New York University School of Law, is dedicated to improving the quality of governmental decisionmaking in environmental, public health, and safety regulation. ISR’s principal goal will be to implement the vision described in the new book Retaking Rationality: How Cost-Benefit Analysis Can Better Protect the Environment and Our Health by Revesz and Livermore, which promotes the use of cost-benefit analysis as a tool to advance socially beneficial regulation.

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