Report: The Clean Air Act’s Economic Benefits Outweigh Costs by 30 to 1

Wisconsin Environment

Madison—Days after the U.S. House passed a funding bill that eviscerates clean air protections in Wisconsin, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a report today that highlights the economic and health benefits of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments.

Scott Thompson, Clean Energy Associate for Wisconsin Environment issued a statement in response:

“Wisconsinites can all breathe a little easier knowing that the Clean Air Act will not only save hundreds of thousands of lives in the coming years, but also save our economy trillions of dollars. EPA’s report reaffirms what Wisconsin’s public health experts have said for years: the Clean Air Act saves lives and is one of the best tools we have to cost-effectively protect Wisconsinites’ health and our environment.

“Today’s report finds that in 2010 alone the Clean Air Act saved 160,000 lives nationwide. By 2020, that number is expected to grow to 230,000. The implementation of this single law will lead to $2 trillion in economic benefits by 2020, which was the size of Italy’s 2010 gross domestic product—the 7th largest in the world. Furthermore, these benefits exceed the costs of implementation by a factor of thirty to one.

“Since its passage in 1970 and updates in 1977 and 1990, the Clean Air Act has drastically cut dangerous pollutants like arsenic, mercury, carbon dioxide and other toxics from smokestacks and tailpipes, preventing 3.2 million missed school days and 13 million missed work days last year alone. As the EPA continues to implement and build on emissions control programs under this law, we can only expect the potential benefits of the Clean Air Act to grow.

“Today’s report makes it all the more alarming that some in Congress – including Wisconsin representatives Paul Ryan, Ron Kind, James Sensenbrenner, Tom Petri, Sean Duffy and Reid Ribble – are working to block EPA from doing its job and enforcing Clean Air Act standards to clean up dangerous pollution.

“Most notably, the funding bill (H.R. 1) that the House Republican leadership pushed through on February 19 would bar EPA from updating critical standards for a number of life-threatening pollutants.

“This report underscores the importance of EPA’s use of the Clean Air Act to protect Wisconsinites’ health. I urge Senators Kohl and Johnson to support EPA as it moves forward to update pollution standards under this landmark law.”


Wisconsin Environment is a statewide, citizen-based environmental advocacy organization working for clean air, clean water and open spaces.