Posted by: JanF | November 28, 2014

“Thanks, President Obama!” New EPA Regulations Will Make Us Healthier and Save Lives

On Wednesday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced new regulations to cut ground level ozone (smog) levels in order to improve public health.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy:

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy Explains Proposed Smog Standards To Protect Americans’ Health

Her editorial, published at, explains the new regulations:

For 44 years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has defended the American people’s right to breathe clean air by setting national air quality standards for common air pollutants.

Successful public health protection depends on the latest science. Think of it this way: If your doctor wasn’t using the latest medical science, you’d be worried you weren’t getting the best care.

That’s why the Clean Air Act requires EPA to update air quality standards every five years, to ensure standards “protect public health with an adequate margin of safety” based on the latest scientific evidence.

So today, following science and the law, I am proposing to update national ozone pollution standards to clean up our air, improve access to crucial air quality information, and protect those most at-risk — our children, our elderly, and people already suffering from lung diseases like asthma. […]

Ground-level ozone pollution, commonly known as smog, comes from industrial action, motor vehicles, power plants, and other activities. Breathing ozone irritates the nose, throat, and lungs. Thousands of scientific studies (from renowned institutions like Harvard University, the University of North Carolina Medical School, and many others) tell us that cutting air pollution to meet ozone standards lowers the risk of asthma, permanent lung damage, cardiovascular harm, and premature death.

The science behind the regulations:

According to EPA’s analysis, strengthening the standard to a range of 65 to 70 ppb will provide significantly better protection for children, preventing from 320,000 to 960,000 asthma attacks and from 330,000 to 1 million missed school days. Strengthening the standard to a range of 70 to 65 ppb would better protect both children and adults by preventing more than 750 to 4,300 premature deaths; 1,400 to 4,300 asthma-related emergency room visits; and 65,000 to 180,000 missed workdays.

EPA estimates that the benefits of meeting the proposed standards will significantly outweigh the costs. If the standards are finalized, every dollar we invest to meet them will return up to three dollars in health benefits. These large health benefits will be gained from avoiding asthma attacks, heart attacks, missed school days and premature deaths, among other health effects valued at $6.4 to $13 billion annually in 2025 for a standard of 70 ppb, and $19 to $38 billion annually in 2025 for a standard of 65 ppb. Annual costs are estimated at $3.9 billion in 2025 for a standard of 70 ppb, and $15 billion for a standard at 65 ppb.

Of course, industry is howling … because that is what they do! Their perfect world is one where “job creators” can befoul our earth, sicken us, and then deny us the right to health care.

Job killing blah blah blah, costs trillions blah blah blah, Obama is an emperor blah blah blah.

Think Progress reminds us that chicken littling is the default position for industry and their Republican enablers and that these claims are often proven overblown. They provide a handy graph:

… both industry groups and Republicans have been overestimating the cost of regulations like this since the EPA first began issuing regulation of this kind. In addition, the EPA has historically underestimated the benefits. Those statements are backed up by a survey done by The Economic Policy Institute, which in 1997 found that estimates made before EPA regulations went into effect — even the estimates made by the EPA itself — nearly always significantly overshot how much those regulations would actually cost American industry.

This same kind of industry gloom and doom prediction happened when the EPA strengthened its ozone regulation in the 90s, too. And according to an analysis of the effects of those regulations from the Center for American Progress, those predictions didn’t pan out — in fact, the areas most impacted by those regulations experienced very similar economic growth and employment rates to the nation as a whole.

As Administrator McCarthy pointed out in her op-ed:

Critics play a dangerous game when they denounce the science and law EPA has used to defend clean air for more than 40 years. The American people know better.

In the 1970s, those same critics said EPA action to remove toxic lead from gasoline would put the brakes on auto production. Instead, blood lead levels in children worst affected have plummeted nearly 90% since 1976. And auto makers didn’t fold, they flourished. Today, the number of cars rolling off American assembly lines reached its highest level in 12 years.

In the 1990s, those same critics said fighting acid rain would make electricity prices go up and our lights go out. They said industry would die “a quiet death.” Instead, industry is alive and well, our lights are still on, and the health benefits of our acid rain program exceed costs 40 to 1.

Time after time, when science pointed to health risks, special interests cried the sky was falling. And time after time, EPA obeyed the law, followed the science, protected public health, and fortified a strong American economy.

Over four decades, we’ve cut air pollution by nearly 70%, while our economy has tripled in size. The sky never fell. Today’s action follows that proven path.

Of course, the law being enforced is not a new Emperor Obama law but the Clean Air Act, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1963, expanded in 1967 and 1970 and improved in 1990 (under Emperor George H.W. Bush) by amendments which “addressed acid rain, ozone depletion and toxic air pollution, established a national permits program for stationary sources, and increased enforcement authority.”

Protecting the air we breathe should be nonpartisan and has been in the past.

Thank goodness for the EPA … and for Democratic administrations that care about people’s health and the future of our planet.



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