Air and Water Pollution Regulation: Accomplishments and Economic Consequences

By Martin Freedman; Bikki Jaggi | Go to book overview

Chapter 11
SUMMARY OF FINDINGS AND PUBLIC POLICY IMPLICATIONS

Pollution control laws were not enacted to make businesses more competitive; rather, their goal was to improve the quality of life for residents of the United States and, to some extent, for the global community. It is true that businesses must bear most of the costs to implement these legislations, but in fact, businesses are also primarily responsible for the pollution problem. By making the assumption that air and water are free goods and that the impact of business activities on the quality of environments need not be considered, businesses violate the rights of all people to enjoy the basic necessities of life and contribute to the pollution problem.

The environmental laws have primarily been developed to stop the destruction of environment, and their implementation has been designed in a way that their impact should not affect the survival of a company. In order to achieve this dual goal, the cleanup requirements have been spread over a long period of time. In the enforcement process of both the Clean Air Acts and Amendments and the Clean Water Acts and Amendments, the EPA has reached a mutually satisfactory solution with the firms: Legal action occurs only after all other remedies fail. Unfortunately, this cooperative process has made the achievement of the original goal of clean waterways by 1985 more of a dream than a reality.

We have no doubt that from a societal perspective, the benefits of environmental legislation outweigh the costs. This is evident from the response of the U.S. government offices and agencies to President Reagan's directive to justify regulations on a cost-benefit basis. Despite a great desire to prove that the costs of regulations would outweigh the benefits, the environmental laws withstood this challenge. The objective of the analyses contained in this book has not been to support or challenge air and water pollution laws;

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