Donate Sign up for e-network
CENTER for BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY Because life is good

Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player

Find out more from the Center for Biological Diversity:
Clean Air Act
The New York Times, March 1, 2011

Benefits of Clean Air Act Rules to Reach $2T, EPA Says
By Gabriel Nelson, Greenwire

A two-decade-old crackdown on smog and soot under the Clean Air Act will yield about $2 trillion in annual benefits by 2020, according to a study (pdf) that was released by U.S. EPA this morning and was touted as proof that the embattled agency's rules are an economic boon for the American people.

Those rules prevented an estimated 160,000 deaths last year, according to the analysis, and within a decade, that number is projected to rise to about 230,000. That year, the new pollution controls will prevent an estimated 200,000 cases of heart disease, 2.4 million asthma flare-ups and 22.4 million missed school and work days.

The study was ordered by the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act, which were signed into law by President George H.W. Bush. Most of the stricter limits on smog and soot also date back to those amendments, which passed with support from both parties.

In a statement today, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said the benefits of those rules are a testament to "the power of bipartisan approaches to protecting the health of the American people."

"The benefits of avoiding early death, preventing heart attacks and asthma attacks, and reducing the number of sick days for employees far exceed costs of implementing clean air protections," she said. "These benefits lead to a more productive workforce, and enable consumers and businesses to spend less on health care -- all of which help strengthen the economy."

The new study was touted by public health groups and environmentalists as proof that critics in Congress should let the agency continue with further curbs on smog, as well as greenhouse gases and toxic pollution. With the agency's top air pollution official headed to Capitol Hill this afternoon to testify on the new climate rules, the study will likely be used to shield against criticism from House Republicans.

With the two houses of Congress working to strike a deal on a continuing resolution to keep the government funded for the next seven months, House leadership included a measure in their stopgap bill that would block EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. The House also voted to add an amendment with similar language, as well as several other riders that would block new air pollution rules.

Those measures would be a hard sell in the Democratic-controlled Senate, and they were stripped from a two-week extension that was sent to the House floor and was closed to amendments.

Regardless of whether they get into a spending bill, the measures are getting a push in both houses. Lawmakers such as Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who has introduced a bill to block EPA and the rest of the federal government from limiting greenhouse gases, say the agency's rules are subverting the role of Congress.

"They are doing this in defiance of the American people, who have made it so clear that they don't want cap-and-trade that even a Democrat-controlled Senate wouldn't pass it," he wrote in an op-ed that was published today in Human Events. "Yet the EPA plans to keep right on going, whether Americans like it or not."

But environmental groups and many Democrats are trying to stave off those efforts, and they said the new study shows why. The benefits of these particular Clean Air Act rules outstrip the costs by a margin of 30-to-1, the studies show.

"In this cynical era of government-bashing, it is stunning to see just how well a government program can work," said Frank O'Donnell, president of the advocacy group Clean Air Watch. "This is not only a ringing endorsement of the Clean Air Act, but can be read as a stinging rebuke to those on Capitol Hill who would tamper with it."

Click here (pdf) to read the report.

© 2011 The New York Times Company

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton