air pollution

The Supreme Court’s Earliest Pollution Cases

Long before Congress, a notoriously conservative Court started taking pollution seriously.

Well over a century ago, the Supreme Court ruled that it had that power to remedy interstate water pollution. That was in 1901. Six years later, the Court decided its first air pollution case.  Notably, these cases came during the conservative Lochner era when the Court was hardly known for its liberalism.  Quite the contrary. …

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A Design Flaw in the Clean Air Act

Why have technology-based standards if you have air quality standards?

The Clean Air Act has two kinds of standards. It sounds like having two kinds of standards should improve air quality more than a single standard. But in reality, one type of standard can result in canceling out the benefits of the other type. If you understand the statute, this is actually pretty obvious once …

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Taking A Data-Driven Tour of Air Pollution Law

After Half a Century, What Do We Really Know about the Impacts of the Clean Air Act?

Earlier this year, a team of economists published a retrospective paper on the Clean Air Act. It surveys the economic literature to find out what the data tells us about emission trading systems, the effects of pollutants, and effects of imposing tougher regulatory requirements in areas that failed to meet national air quality standards. Some …

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Regan Hits His Stride

Under Administrator Michael Regan, the Biden EPA is beginning to churn out important new regulatory proposals.

The Trump Administration left a trail of regulatory destruction behind it. Cleaning up the mess and issuing new regulations is Priority #1 for the Biden Administration. Under EPA head Michael Regan, the effort is beginning to pick up steam. EPA has begun the year with several major new regulatory efforts.  No one of them is …

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Environmental Justice, Truck Pollution, and the Biden EPA

How will EPA integrate EJ into its rule making? The answer remains murky.

EPA recently released a notice of proposed rulemaking for pollution from new heavy-duty vehicles. I was interested to see how environmental justice figured into the analysis, looking for clues about how the Biden Administration plans to make EJ part of decision making.  What I found wasn’t very enlightening. Perhaps they’re still trying to come up …

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Air Quality as Environmental Justice

National air quality standards may be among the most powerful levers for environmental justice.

The environmental justice movement began with a focus on neighborhood struggles against toxic waste facilities and other local pollution sources.  The EJ focus now includes other measures to ensure that vulnerable communities get the benefit of climate regulations. The most powerful tool for assisting those communities, however, may be the National Ambient Air Quality Standards …

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Everyday Christmas: The Gift of the Commons

Clean air. Clean water. We receive these public goods every day without payment

One of the Christmas classics is the Jimmy Stewart movie, It’s a Wonderful Life. George Bailey, Stewart’s character, is despondent about his life but then learns how much he has unknowingly helped others and how grateful they are. It’s heartwarming, if also a bit corny. There’s a flip side to that story: the need to remember …

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Aggregating the Harms of Fossil Fuels

They’re even worse than you probably thought.

The decision at the Glasgow climate conference to phase down fossil fuels is an important step forward — and not just because of climate change.  We think of fossil fuels as a source of climate change, but that’s only a one part of the problem. From their extraction to their combustion, everything about them is …

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Blue Skies and Wildfire in California

An opinion piece in the NY Times reveals a disconnect between history and what we expect from wildfires and air quality

There’s a lot of news coverage about the wildfires on the West Coast right now, and rightly so. But with that news coverage comes a lot of commentary, some of which might lead us down the wrong policy path. I want to highlight an example from the New York Times opinion page, not because it …

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Regulating Interstate Ozone Pollution: EPA Nears the Finish Line

The regulatory history is dauntingly convoluted. This sixteen year regulatory saga has lessons for climate policy.

EPA issued a rule last week that will significantly improve air quality, particularly on the East Coast.  This is EPA’s fourth and final iteration of a rule-making process to control interstate air pollution that began in 2005.  Reflecting this history, this fourth rule is a second and presumably final revision of an update to an …

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