Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

The Air Law Payoff

Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

The Air Law Payoff

Article excerpt

Major federal regulations are giving back more dollars in benefits than they cost, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) air regulations account for the biggest share of those benefits, concludes a 2003 review by the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA).

In reviewing EPA cost--benefit figures for 107 federal regulations issued between 1 October 1992 and 30 September 2002, OIRA found that benefits ranged from $146 billion to $230 billion, compared to costs of $36-42 billion. The lion's share of benefits came from four clean air regulations that showed benefits of $101-119 billion compared to costs of $8-8.8 billion.

Jonathan Levy, an assistant professor of environmental health and risk assessment at the Harvard School of Public Health, says most of the benefits from these rules--which limit particulates and particulate precursors such as nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide--come from decreased deaths, fewer lost workdays, and lower hospitalization costs as a result of cleaner air.

"Reducing public exposure to fine particles promises both public health and economic benefits," says OIRA administrator John Graham. "These rules will be costly to industry and consumers, but science suggests that the benefits, though somewhat uncertain, justify the costs."

But Ben Lieberman, director of air quality policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a public policy think tank, says, "It's pretty clear that EPA is exaggerating. …

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