Clean Air Act Benefits Exceed Costs More Than 30-to-1

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has just released a report on the Clean Air Act that would make any investor proud. It shows that for every dollar spent on regulations to cut air pollution over the last 30 years, we’ve earned more than $30 in savings to go along with tremendous public health benefits.

Members of Congress have spent much of the last two months trying to roll back clean air protections. They’ve argued that the Clean Air Act is bad for the economy. This report shows otherwise. As EDF’s president Fred Krupp notes, “If anyone still doubts that America can afford to do the right thing, this report should settle the matter. Cleaner air will unquestionably improve our health, our economy, and our lives.”

California still ranks among the states with the worst air pollution. Just this week, Forbes released a list of the ten most toxic cities in America. Four of them are California cities: Bakersfield (2nd place), Fresno (3rd place), Los Angeles (6th place) and Riverside-San Bernardino (10th). Poor air quality was a major reason they qualified.

Ironically, all of those cities have improved their air quality in the last decade. The trouble is that they’ve also grown dramatically, which has only added to the number of vehicles and other sources of pollution. Can you imagine how much pollution—and lung disease—we’d have in those cities and around the country if tailpipe and power plant pollution controls had not been in place these last 30 years?

California needs the Clean Air Act for many reasons, but the economic benefits particularly stand out. An earlier peer-reviewed study found that dirty air in the Los Angeles Air Basin costs local residents nearly $22 billion a year in health costs, premature death, lost days at work and lost days at school. In the San Joaquin Valley, the annual costs amount to about $6 billion.

Think about it: that’s $28 billion in costs each and every year—nearly as much as it would take to resolve the state’s budget deficit this year.

Now add EPA’s new study showing that we get $30 worth of value on every dollar invested in clean air and another thing becomes clear: those who are working to weaken the Clean Air Act and reduce EPA’s authority are effectively selling an investment that’s returned billions of dollars to our economy.

A poll released last month by the American Lung Association found that three out of four Americans support the EPA setting tougher standards on specific air pollutants, including mercury, smog and carbon dioxide. It also found that 68 percent of voters oppose Congressional action that impedes the EPA from updating clean air standards generally and 64 percent oppose Congressional efforts to stop the EPA from updating standards on carbon dioxide. If you want to protect these economic benefits and help prevent putting tens of thousands of lives at risk, you can voice your support for the Clean Air Act and the EPA by clicking here.

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