Uncertainty in the Cost-Effectiveness of Federal Air Quality Regulations

Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis (2015, v6 n1 p66–111; doi:10.1017/bca.2015.7) / by Kerry Krutilla, David Good and John Graham

[From a Greenwire article by Amanda Peterka, sub. req’d]

Estimates of the number of lives saved by federal air regulations are highly uncertain, researchers from Indiana University concluded in a new study.

The team, which included a former top official in President George W. Bush’s administration, analyzed nine air pollution regulations issued by U.S. EPA between 2011 and 2013 and found that the number of lives saved ranged from zero to 80,000…

[From Press Release] Air pollution regulations issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are estimated to save thousands of lives annually. A new study by researchers at Indiana University says these estimates are more uncertain than commonly believed.

Researchers Kerry Krutilla, David H. Good and John D. Graham of the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs analyzed the costs and expected lifesavings of nine regulations issued between 2011 and 2013. The bulk of these regulations require national emissions standards for hazardous air pollutants. The analysis includes the Mercury and Air Toxic Standards and the Cross State Air Pollution Rule.

The researchers estimate that the lives saved from this group of regulations could plausibly range from none to more than 80,000 per year. The range reflects uncertainty about the health effects of fine particles, and the possibility that airborne exposures to fine particles do not increase mortality risks. Minor changes in estimates for mortality risks applied over the large populations exposed to air pollutants translate into large differences in estimates for the lives that the regulations save…


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