How old is too old for employment data? Well, the Environmental Protection Agency has been using decades old economic data to analyze regulations, according to a government watchdog report.

The Government Accountability Office reported the EPA “estimated effects of its regulations on employment, in part, using a study that… was based on data that were more than 20 years old and may not have represented the regulated entities addressed” in its regulatory impact analyses (RIAs).

EPA officials told the GAO that the 20-year-old data “represented the best reasonably obtainable data” when they were analyzing regulations, and that “they are exploring new approaches for analyzing these effects but were uncertain about when such results would be available.”

“Without improvements in its estimates, EPA’s RIAs may be limited in their usefulness for helping decision makers and the public understand these important effects,” GAO noted in its report, released this week.

When crafting major regulations on industrial boilers, commercial incinerators and technology for waste-water discharges, the agency estimated the impacts its rules would have on jobs using a study looking at labor markets from 1979 to 1991 — decades before the EPA finalized any of these rules.

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