The economic payoff from the Clean Air Act amendments of 1990 beats its costs by a margin of 4 to 1, according to a new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study.
The report projects that the Clean Air Act amendments and related programs prevent thousands of premature deaths, millions of asthma attacks and a range of other human health and ecological problems.
President Clinton seemed to take credit for the improvement with a statement that accompanied release of the report. "This administration has enacted the most stringent public health and environmental standards ever while creating unprecedented economic growth," Clinton said.
The president argued that the report shows public health and environmental protection can be achieved along with economic benefits, and he vowed to continue to work aggressively to protect the nation's air, water and land.
Big improvements in air quality may be a thing of the past, according to Marshall Whitenton, an expert on environmental regulation for the National Association of Manufacturers. "Over the past 30 years, we have picked the low-hanging fruit on air pollution," Whitenton said. What is important now, he added, is to figure out what other steps to take to improve health.
The EPA study used an array of computer models, emissions and cost data to show that in the year 2010, the 1990 amendments will prevent 23,000 Americans from dying prematurely and avert more than 1.7 million asthma attacks and aggravation of chronic asthma. In addition, the report predicts that in 2010, the law will prevent 4.1 million lost work days and 31 million days in which Americans would have had restricted activity due to air pollution illnesses.
EPA said this report was the subject of extensive peer review. Economists, scientists and public health experts provided detailed assessment and advice throughout the study's design, implementation and documentation.
The economic value of the health and ecological benefits of Clean Air programs will total $110 billion, according to the report. The estimated cost of these benefits is $27 billion.
Copies of the report, "The Benefits and Costs of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990," will be available on the Internet at www.epa.gov/oar/sect812.