|HOW CLEAN IS CLEAN ENOUGH?|
September 12, 1997
Questions asked in this forum:
When will Govt. agencies be inspected for environmental compliance? Will diesel fuel ever be banned? What explains the increasing number of asthma cases? Will stricter standards in the U.S. increase pollution from Mexico? What lessons can environmentalists learn from the fight against the cigarette industry? Who controls pollution better: the states or the federal government? Where does a breath of fresh air fit into a cost-benefit analysis? Additional comments...
June 25, 1997:
Margaret Warner leads a discussion of the tougher clean air standards.
June 25, 1997:
Read our Online Forum: U.S.Representatives Julia Carson (D-IN) and Jim Gibbons (R-NV) debated the effectiveness of the EPA.
November 27, 1996:
The Environmental Protection Agency proposes to reduce smog levels by a third.
December 21, 1995:
Spencer Michels reports on the changing role of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Browse the Online NewsHour's coverage of the environment.
Environmental Protection Agency
Citizens for a Sound Economy advocates market-based solutions to public policy problems.
Air Quality Resources on the Internet.
Clean Air Act Information Network
A question from John Champagne of San Antonio, Texas:
Don't we all own the air and water? Shouldn't everyone share in deciding what levels of pollution are acceptable? Whatever the actual level of pollution we decide to permit, wouldn't a fee-based system be the most efficient and fair way to achieve that goal?
Carol Browner of the Environmental Protection Agency responds:
All Americans have an interest in clean air and water, and everyone should and does share in deciding what levels of pollution are acceptable. Through our representatives in Congress, everyone's interests are taken into account and are reflected in the laws such as the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts.
The Clean Air Act, for example, requires that the EPA review the national ambient air quality standards every five years to ensure that they are based on the latest scientific knowledge. Based on such knowledge, the Act requires that these standards, such as the standards for ozone and particulate matter, protect public health with an adequate margin of safety, as well as protect the environment from adverse effects. The Act further requires that an independent science advisory committee, comprised of experts in various fields, review the science and the standards, and provide their advice and recommendations to me as to whether any changes are appropriate to ensure the protections required by the Act. This extensive scientific review process is open to the public, and provides an opportunity for all interested parties to have input into this decision making process. Further, once I propose a decision based on the science and the advice that I receive through this scientific review process, I encourage the public to comment on the proposal so that a full range of views can be taken into account in making a final decision.
In the case of the ozone and particulate matter national ambient air quality standards, the decision to strengthen these standards was based on hundreds of peer reviewed scientific studies, the advice and recommendations of my scientific advisors, and consideration of more than 55,000 comments from the public. I believe that these decisions, and the process that we use to reach these decisions, reflect the interests of the public in deciding upon appropriate heath standards, both through direct comments and indirectly through the law passed by Congress which guides our actions. This scientifically sound and fair approach helps achieve the best public health and the environmental protection for all Americans.
Fee-based systems, where companies or individuals are charged according to how much they pollute, are one of many economic tools that states can choose to reduce air pollution. Emission trading systems, another market-based approach, have significantly reduced sulfur dioxide emissions which cause acid rain. EPA used a fee-based system to phase-out Chloroflurocarbons (CFCs), chemicals that harm the earths protective ozone layer.