Sustained Outrage

Do Clean Air Act regulations hurt the economy?

Some of you might have missed her testimony, because House Republicans rarely let EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson finish a sentence today before they interrupted to complain about how EPA regulations were hurting the nation’s economy.

But if they had listened to Jackson just a little bit, they might have heard some interesting statistics about the federal Clean Air Act, such as:

In 1990 alone, EPA’s implementation of the Act prevented an estimated 18 million child respiratory illnesses, 850,000 asthma attacks, 674,000 cases of chronic bronchitis, and 205,000 premature deaths.


The mere monetary value of saving Americans from those harms through implementing the Clean Air Act is projected to reach $2 trillion in 2020 alone. Over the period from 1990 through 2020, the monetary value to Americans of the Act’s protection is projected to exceed the cost of that protection by a factor of more than 30 to 1.

That’s just part of what Jackson was trying to tell members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce during a hearing that focused on efforts to rewrite the Clean Air Act to block EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions. She summarized some of the law’s benefits in this letter to the committee’s ranking Democratic member, Rep. Henry Waxman.

And there was more:

In addition to lowering healthcare costs, increasing productivity, and saving lives, the EPA’s implementation of the Clean Air Act’s public health protections creates American jobs. Updated standards for cutting harmful air pollution at American facilities spur investments in the design, manufacture, installation, and operation of pollution-reducing technologies. Those activities create jobs for Americans across a wide range of industrial professions and crafts. Many power plants and factories slated to receive job-creating, pollution-reducing upgrades to meet updated Clean Air Act standards are located in the same highly industrialized regions where unemployment currently is particularly high. Importantly, jobs installing or operating pollution controls at American facilities cannot be sent abroad. Data from the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers indicates that the number of boilermakers in the United States increased by 6,700 – or 35 percent – from 1999 to 2001 as a result of the EPA’s standards to implement the Clean Air Act. The Institute of Clean Air Companies estimates that preparations to comply with just one of those standards have occupied approximately 200,000 person-years of labor over the past seven years.

Jackson concluded:

In sum, the EPA’s work to implement the Clean Air Act’s public health protections creates American jobs and bolsters the global competitiveness of American industry, even as it lowers healthcare costs and protects American families from birth defects, illnesses, and premature death.