The Clean Air Act—our nation’s principal law protecting the air we breathe from pollution—has a more than 40 year track record of cost-effectively cutting pollution, preventing hundreds of thousands of premature deaths and hundreds of millions of cases of respiratory and cardiovascular disease, and spurring technological innovation. A recent government study showed that over the last 20 years, the benefits of the Clean Air Act have exceeded the costs by a factor of 30 to 1. That means that for every $1 spent by a polluter to control emissions, the American public receives approximately $30 in benefits, ranging from savings in health care costs to higher economic productivity as fewer workers are forced to miss work due to illness. In 2010 alone, the EPA estimates that the Clean Air Act prevented more than 160,000 premature deaths, 130,000 heart attacks, 13 million lost work days, and 1.7 million asthma attacks.
Yet despite—or perhaps because of—this track record of success, big polluters and their allies in Washington are in the midst of the worst sustained assault ever on this landmark law. Indeed, the House Republican leadership has prioritized these attacks and overseen passage of numerous pieces of legislation to block, weaken, or delay a host of long overdue clean air safeguards that would provide enormous public health and environmental benefits. In response, LCV has made it a top priority to prevent any provision from becoming law that would tie the hands of the EPA’s scientists from safeguarding the health of the American people from harmful air pollution, such as mercury, arsenic and carbon.