Thousands of American lives and billions of dollars in health care costs associated with breathing dirty air could be saved as a result of recent actions by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reduce toxic air pollution. But the significant benefits the American public stands to gain from these critical efforts are being jeopardized by polluting industries and their allies in Congress, who are attempting to weaken and delay these life and cost-saving measures with baseless projections of economic doom.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Clean Air Act, a landmark law with bipartisan support that was passed by President Nixon in 1970. In a recent speech commemorating the anniversary, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson noted that "the total benefits of the Clean Air Act amount to more than 40 times the cost of regulation. For every one dollar we have spent, we get more than $40 of benefits in return."
The rules currently under assault—which include efforts to reduce emissions of mercury and other toxic air pollutants from industrial boilers and cement plants—will continue the tradition of saving lives and money.
"The benefits of these rules to the public cannot be denied. Taken together, the rules to cut toxic air pollution from industrial boilers and cement kilns could save up to 7,400 lives every year and provide net economic benefits that could exceed $50 billion annually," said Earthjustice attorney James Pew. "Industry has claimed in the past, like they are claiming now, that pollution regulations will put them out of business. But the history of the Clean Air Act demonstrates the opposite, and we encourage the EPA to move forward with its mission of protecting Americans’ health notwithstanding the fear-mongering of polluters and their allies."
Contrary to claims made by industry lobbyists, the Clean Air Act rules will save lives without adversely impacting jobs. The EPA has concluded that reducing pollution from both industrial boilers and cement kilns will not cause any significant job loss and, because American workers will install the pollution control equipment that plants use to meet them, the new standards may yield a net jobs increase. These conclusions are supported by extensive analysis, and were reviewed and approved by the Office of Management and Budget. The industry lobbyists’ claims rely on studies that were paid for by the very industry groups that are seeking to avoid pollution control requirements, and ignore basic economic principles.
Industrial boilers and cement kilns are the second and third largest sources of mercury pollution in the U.S., respectively. Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin that can dramatically affect a child’s ability to think and learn. The cement kiln rule, a final version of which was released in August, will cut cement kilns’ mercury emissions by 16,600 pounds, a reduction of approximately 92 percent. A final version of the industrial boilers rule won’t be released until January 16, 2011, but the proposed rule would cut mercury emissions from these facilities by 15,000 pounds.
These reductions, along with reductions in particulate matter, acid gases, sulfur dioxide, dioxins and other dangerous air pollutants will translate to real benefits for the American public.
"A lack of safety regulations is ultimately what lead to the BP oil spill and the financial meltdown that continues to plague our economy," said Pew of Earthjustice. "We can’t afford a similar lack of regulation when it comes to the air we breathe. Cement kilns and industrial boilers have escaped requirements to control their pollution for far too long.
"Virtually every other industry doing business in America met these standards and significantly reduced their pollution long ago. Industrial boilers and cement kilns can do so too, and they can do it with off-the-shelf technologies that have been on the market for years. It is time for these industries to meet their obligations to their neighbors; instead of spreading false information about jobs and costs, they should get on with the job of cleaning up their toxic emissions. The promise of lives and dollars saved as a result of the EPA’s efforts to finally force these polluters to clean up is too great to abandon."