U.S. EPA: Clean Air Act Saved 160,000 lives in 2010

U.S. EPA: Clean Air Act Saved 160,000 lives in 2010

WASHINGTON, DC, March 2, 2011 (ENS) – Last year, the reductions in fine particle and ozone pollution from the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments prevented more than 160,000 cases of premature death, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates released Tuesday.

The agency’s report examined the effects of the Clean Air Act amendments on the economy, public health and the environment between 1990 and 2020.

By 2020, the benefits of reducing fine particle and ground level ozone pollution under the amendments will reach approximately $2 trillion while saving 230,000 people from early death in that year alone, the report concludes.

The Edge Moor power plant near near Wilmington, Delaware burns natural gas. When Calpine acquired the 725 MW facility in 2010, the company decided to discontinue burning coal. (Photo courtesy Conectiv)

About 85 percent of the $2 trillion in economic benefits are attributable to reductions in premature mortality associated with reductions in ambient particulate matter, the report finds.

The EPA report received extensive review and input from the Council on Clean Air Compliance Analysis, an independent panel of economists, scientists and public health experts established by Congress in 1991.

“The Clean Air Act’s decades-long track record of success has helped millions of Americans live healthier, safer and more productive lives,” said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. “This report outlines the extraordinary health and economic benefits of one of our nation’s most transformative environmental laws and demonstrates the power of bipartisan approaches to protecting the health of the American people from pollution in our environment.”

The report states, “Our central benefits estimate exceeds costs by a factor of more than 30 to one, and the high benefits estimate exceeds costs by 90 times. Even the low benefits estimate exceeds costs by about three to one.”

The Southern Environmental Law Center comments, “The findings of EPA’s new report stand in stark contrast to the decades-old mantra of industry lobbyists and their political allies that regulations to protect public health and the environment will cost too much, have little benefit, and drive businesses overseas and workers to the bread lines.”

The Stanton power plant in Orlando, Florida is powered by coal and landfill gas (Photo by Power)

Despite historic evidence to the contrary, detailed in a new fact sheet by the Southern Environmental Law Center, industry representatives and their allies are still predicting doom and criticizing the EPA for fulfilling its legal duties to protect public health and the environment.

Compelled by a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, EPA has concluded that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases pose a clear danger to public health in America and began regulating greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and other major facilities on January 2, 2011.

Calling the EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations a “power grab” in a letter published in the “Wall Street Journal” December 28, 2010, House Republican Congressman Fred Upton of Michigan and Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, wrote, “Cuts in carbon emissions would mean significantly higher electricity prices. We think the American consumer would prefer not to be skinned by Obama’s EPA.”

“This EPA has a track record of regulating too much too fast while ignoring potentially devastating economic consequences,” Upton said on January 24, in a statement about the maximum-achievable control technology, MACT, rules for industrial boilers and some incinerators issued by the EPA in February – also in response to a court order.

The Paradise coal-fired power plant is in western Kentucky on the Green River. It is operated by Tennessee Valley Authority, a federal government agency. (Photo by Michael Davis)

“The Boiler MACT rules are a perfect example of what happens when the EPA diverts its resources and attention away from its core responsibilities in order to pursue controversial regulatory schemes – such as its greenhouse gas regime – that lack support in Congress,” said Upton.

Aric Newhouse, senior vice president for policy and government relations with the National Association of Manufacturers said, “The new Boiler MACT rule will have an immediate, negative impact on manufacturers’ bottom lines at a time when they are trying to rebound economically and create jobs. This is a harsh, inflexible rule that will cost jobs, hurt global competiveness and may discourage projects that could otherwise lead to environmental improvements.”

Some opponents of EPA’s new emissions regulations are launching an attack on the entire Clean Air Act, portraying environmental regulation as a choice between health and jobs, says the Southern Environmental Law Center.

“This is a much broader issue than the health of the American people and lungs and emphysema; it’s how can we balance that in the global marketplace for jobs,” Congressman Ed Whitfield, a Kentucky Republican, told the “National Journal Daily” on January 18, 2011.

Yet the new EPA report, “The Benefits and Costs of the Clean Air Act from 1990 to 2020,” shows that 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.

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 agency concludes.

In the year 2010, the reductions in fine particle and ozone pollution from the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments prevented more than:

  • 160,000 cases of premature mortality
  • 130,000 heart attacks
  • 13 million lost work days
  • 1.7 million asthma attacks

In 2020, the study projects benefits are projected to prevent more than:

  • 230,000 cases of premature mortality
  • 200,000 heart attacks
  • 17 million lost work days
  • 2.4 million asthma attacks

This report estimates only the benefits from the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments. The 1990 Clean Air Act amendments built on the progress made in improving the nation’s air quality through the Clean Air Act of 1970 and its 1977 amendments. The overall benefits of the Clean Air Act exceed the benefits estimated in this report, with millions of lives saved since 1970.

The report is the third in a series of EPA studies required under the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments that estimate the benefits and costs of the act.

The reports are intended to provide Congress and the public with comprehensive, up-to-date, peer-reviewed information on the Clean Air Act’s social benefits and costs, including improvements in human health, welfare, and ecological resources, as well as the impact of the act’s provisions on the U.S. economy.

Click here for more information and a copy of the summary report.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2011. All rights reserved.

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