Clean Air Act delivered $1.3 trillion in health and other benefits in 2010 alone at $53 billion cost

UCS launches the Clean Air Act Benefits Ticker

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has launched a new web gadget that estimates the net health and economic benefits of the Clean Air Act since it became law in 1970.

The peer-reviewed EPA report, The Benefits and Costs of the Clean Air Act from 1990-2020, finds that by reducing the harmful effects of air pollution, the CAA Amendments of 1990 generated environmental and health benefits of about $1.3 trillion (in 2006 dollars) in 2010. The cost of compliance last year was estimated at $53 billion (in 2006 dollars) — yielding a benefit-cost ratio approximately 25 to 1.

Here’s the UCS backgrounder on the Ticker:

The Clean Air Act

The Clean Air Act has a 40-year track record of cutting dangerous pollution to protect human health and the environment. Administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), this legislation has prevented thousands of premature deaths and hundreds of millions of cases of respiratory and cardiovascular disease.

Under the Clean Air Act (CAA), the EPA is required to regulate emissions that are considered to be pollution and that “endanger public health and welfare.” State governments also have a significant role to play in carrying out CAA regulations, with oversight by the EPA.

The UCS Clean Air Act “Ticker”

The UCS Clean Air Act ticker shows the net benefits of the CAA from the law’s passage in 1970 through the present. According to the EPA:

“Most of these benefits (about 85 percent) are attributable to reductions in premature mortality associated with reductions in ambient particulate matter; as a result, we estimate that cleaner air will, by 2020, prevent 230,000 cases of premature mortality in that year.

The remaining benefits are roughly equally divided among three categories of human health and environmental improvement:

  • preventing premature mortality associated with ozone exposure;
  • preventing morbidity, including heart attacks and chronic bronchitis;
  • and improving the quality of ecological resources and other aspects of the environment, the largest component of which is improved visibility.”

EPA, The Benefits and Costs of the Clean Air Act from 1990 to 2020:  Final Report, March 2011, Abstract.
The estimated costs of compliance with CAA regulations are subtracted from gross benefits associated with improvements to human health and the environment to get the net benefits displayed in the ticker.

Clean Air Act Ticker Methodology [click here]

Peer Reviewed, Reliable Information

The EPA report, The Benefits and Costs of the Clean Air Act from 1990-2020, was reviewed by the Advisory Council on Clean Air Compliance Analysis. The Council is an independent advisory board consisting of economists, scientists and public health experts from universities and other research entities. It was established in 1991 by Congress and tasked with providing technical and economic guidance to the EPA in its preparation of reports on the public health, economic, and environmental impacts of the Clean Air Act.

In its review of this report, the Council stated that:

“The Council is impressed with the quality, scope, and presentation of the Second Prospective Report. The report provides a state-of-the-art analysis of the benefits and costs of the 1990 CAAA (Clean Air Act Amendments). It is comprehensive in scope, sophisticated in methodology, and is accessible to both specialist and non-specialist readers.” (Excerpt from Review of the Final Integrated Report for the Second Section 812 Prospective Study of the Benefits and Costs of the Clean Air Act (August 2010)).

h/t The Sietch Blog

5 Responses to Clean Air Act delivered $1.3 trillion in health and other benefits in 2010 alone at $53 billion cost

  1. catman306 says:

    NPR’s All Things Considered did a piece on the lost methane involved in fracking this afternoon. It should be available on line later this evening. This includes an interview with the author of the recent Cornell study. The phrase ‘bridge to nowhere’ was used.

  2. David B. Benson says:


  3. TV-Met says:

    From page 10 of the report…

    “The Council was organized under the auspices of EPA’s Science Advisory Board…”

    “Many current and former EPA and contractor staff also made helpful contributions to the development and/or review of the study”

    I think this puts the ‘peer’ in ‘peer-review’ … Doesn’t the Heritage Foundation have a board of ‘experts’ that also reviews its material too?

    Is this really a ‘best practice’ of what is typically associated with peer-review?

  4. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The Clean Air Act seems a great investment, but you must think like a capitalist. Use your reptilian brain-forget the neo-cortex. ‘What’s in it for me?” Repeat, over and over, like a mantra, until the structure of your brain and that of ‘reality’ has changed to suit the greedheads’ paradigm. Then all these wretched ‘externalities’, all these benefits going to ‘other people’ (ie into nothingness as far as the egomaniac is concerned) simply disappear. A few thousand invested in a few politicians to protect a few million in capitalist profits, and all these ‘benefits’ are rendered null and void.

  5. 350 Now says:

    Mulga @4: your comment – perfectly said. When they (we) say “What’s in it for me?” and the answer is “clean air” we, in 2011, reply that we have that already. No longer a thought or care for the next, much less 7th generation, to come.

    If only C02 were black as soot. Clearly, it’s outta sight, outta mind… Perhaps there’s where professional wordsmiths can help scientists communicate the danger. Science knows the danger of rising C02; Joe Blow, not so much… Because he can’t see, smell, taste, touch, feel or sense it and hence… the deadly part of the equation…

    As horrifying as the climate chaos scenario is to read about, I visit this blog site at every chance to read the thought-full, concerned, enlightened comments by you gentle people, and I thank you for your time to do so. I never go away without a new idea, revelation or understanding.