US EPA report shows clean air rules not stunting growth

19:21  09 august  2017
19:21  09 august  2017 Source:   USA TODAY

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Environmentalists are seizing on the EPA 's Trend Reports that shows the economy more than tripled since the Clean Air Act became law in 1970. To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the Conversation Guidelines and FAQs. EPA report shows economic growth , environmental

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Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt© Susan Walsh, AP Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration’s argument that “job-killing” environmental regulations are stifling U.S. economic growth is being undercut by … the Trump administration.

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A new report from the Environmental Protection Agency found that since Congress passed the Clean Air Act in 1970, the economy has more than tripled and the number of vehicle miles traveled every year has nearly doubled — all while the nation’s population and annual energy consumption has surged.

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At the same time, the levels of six key air pollutants — carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particulate matter and sulfur dioxide — have declined dramatically.

The number of unhealthy air quality days annually in 35 of America’s largest cities has fallen significantly while the visibility at national parks across the country once shrouded in haze has improved substantially, the report said.

“The U.S. leads the world in having clean air and a strong economy due to implementation of the Clean Air Act and technological advancements from American innovators,” EPA’s Trends Report declares.

Environmentalists have seized on the report as evidence that efforts by President Donald Trump and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to roll back a slew of Obama-era rules designed to protect air, water and public health are grounded in flawed logic and should stop.

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“Pruitt is selling an old line that the economy and the environment are in conflict. The data over the last 50 years shows it isn’t so,” said David Doniger, director of the climate and clean air program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “You can have a cleaner environment and a strongly growing economy.”

It’s an argument that Pruitt himself made when he addressed EPA staff Feb. 21 shortly after he was sworn in.

“I believe that we as an agency, and we as a nation, can be both pro-energy and jobs and pro-environment. But we don't have to choose between the two,” he said.

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But Pruitt, with the fervent endorsement of Trump, has made it clear he wants to roll back several key Obama-era regulations and stop others from taking effect.

The former Oklahoma attorney general sued the agency he now runs more than a dozen times to halt the implementation of a number of regulations including one involving ozone.

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Pruitt had announced plans in June to delay for an additional year an Obama-era rule requiring states to curb smog-causing emissions such as ozone.It was set to take effect this fall. But he withdrew the proposal last week, a day after 16 states supporting the new standards sued the agency over the move.

He’s talked about revisiting auto emissions rules though he told Reuters recently that nothing is currently under review.

Pruitt also tried to suspend Clean Air Act limits on methane leaks from oil and gas facilities but a court rejected his argument.

The move on methane was part of a larger effort by Trump to roll back Obama’s climate change initiative. So was the president’s decision to begin rolling back the Clean Power Plan and opting out of the global treaty known as the Paris Accord to limit carbon dioxide emissions.

“I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion and to cancel job killing regulations,” Trump said in March as he signed an order to undo the Clean Power Plan while members of his cabinet including Pruitt and a group of coal miners looked on.

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Undoing climate change initiatives are aimed in part to help the ailing coal industry, seen as a major contributor to air pollution.

Ross Eisenberg, vice president of Energy and Resources policy for the National Association of Manufacturers, agrees the Clean Air Act has been instrumental in reducing pollution over the past 47 years. So too, he said, has been industrial innovation thathas led to cleaner and more energy-efficient products.

But the new smog rule, which would lower the concentration of ozone from 75 to 70 parts per billion, will hurt the nation’s industrial sector because of the billions it will cost to implement especially in the West and Midwest where air quality has made compliance challenging, he said.

“We reduced ozone substantially over the past 40 years. The Clean Air Act has unquestionably worked,” Eisenberg said. “But the problem is all of the big things you can do to reduce ozone pollution have been done. The marginal changes that you can make these days are going to cost a whole lot more than the low hanging fruit you could have done in the ‘80s and the ‘90s.”

Those views were echoed by Howard Feldman, senior director for regulatory and scientific affairs for the American Petroleum Institute, a trade group representing the oil and gas industry.

He said the new smog rules would "needlessly (burden) the states and businesses with potentially enormous costs." And he pointed out the industry has spent more than $321 billion since 1990 modernizing its facilities to reduce harmful emissions.

But Bill Becker, the former executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, said the EPA report should convince the administration to be more aggressive in improving air quality and public health.

"You don’t take a successful program, recognize that it’s been working in terms of reducing emissions with an expended economy and then somehow decide to retreat as the administration is suggesting," he said. "The Trends Report is reaffirming that it should be full speed ahead in the way we’ve been doing things because it’s been working."

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