Talking Points on the Environment #32: Top 5 Reasons the EPA’s Proposed New Clean Air Standards Are a Bad Idea

Number 5. The number of cities in noncompliance would almost triple.

Seventy-four cities have not attained the current air quality standards. According to the House Commerce Committee, that number could almost triple to 184 cities under the new standards. “Nonattainment” is more than just a classification. It can mean loss of federal highway funds, mandatory car pooling, a requirement to use more expensive reformulated gasoline and new restrictions on the use of everyday household items such as lawn mowers, hair spray, fireplaces, and paint.

Number 4. The new standards aren’t needed.

Since 1970, air quality has improved dramatically: Carbon monoxide emissions have declined 23%, volatile organic compound emissions have dropped 24% and particulate matter (PM-10) has decreased 78%. Overall, air pollution has dropped 24% since 1970 while the U.S. population has grown by 27%, domestic vehicle miles traveled has increased by 111% and U.S. GNP has grown by 90%.

Number 3. The new standards would divert resources away from where they can do the most good.

The tougher standards will force communities to spend their scarce resources on marginal health risks associated with pollution rather than on ambulances, drug treatment centers, law enforcement and other services.

Number 2. The costs of the new standards would outweigh any benefits.

According to the Reason Public Policy Institute, the new standards would destroy 200,000 jobs and cost a family of four $1,000-$1,800 in disposable income, resulting in the loss of 11,000-27,000 lives each year. These deaths exceed the 15,000 lives the EPA estimates the new standards could save. The financial costs of the new standards would also outweigh the benefits. Sierra Research, Inc. has estimated that the standard could cost the city of Chicago alone $2.5 billion to $7 billion per year. This is up to 210 times the $33 million in health benefits that would result from the new standards.

Number 1. The new standards would not produce the health benefits advertised.

According to EPA Administrator Carol Browner’s own Clean Air Scientific Advisory Council, “there are no significant public health benefits observed by going from present standards to any of the standards proposed by the EPA.”


Information from: Investors Business Daily commentary by Dr. Kenneth Chilton and Stephen Huebner, 12/4/96; CFACT’s Citizen Outlook, March/April 1997; USA Today, 11/29/96; The National Center for Public Policy Research’s National Policy Analysis paper #164; “Clean Air: A Nation Choking Itself on Ever-Tightening Standards.”

Issue Date: July 1997

Talking Points on the Economy: Environment #32, published by The National Center for Public Policy Research, 501 Capitol Ct NE, Washington, D.C. 20001 Tel. (202) 507-6398, Fax (301) 498-1301, [email protected],


The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.