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Study Examines the Staggering Cost of Air Pollution


Improvements seen, but costs still high

A recent study examined the effects of air pollution caused by energy production from 2002 to 2011 and discovered signs of improvement.

The co-authored study analyzed air pollution data that occurred from the extraction of fossil fuels and the production of electricity from 2002 to 2011. Analysis revealed that in 2002, air pollution damages totaled an estimated $175 billion, but that total decreased nearly $44 billion to $131 billion by 2011.

Despite the the 25 percent drop from 2002 to 2011, the study noted that costs are still too high.

Effects of the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR)

One likely reason for the reduction in costs could be attributed to the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Although this policy was never fully implemented, according to the study, industry had already begun installing pollution abatement devices to comply with the new regulations.

Results from the study further pointed to the reduction of SO2 as likely having the highest benefit in reducing overall cost damages within the sectors examined.

Regulations on the power generation sector

However, the researchers suggested that stronger controls on the power generation sector would also significantly help reduce costs since those facilities also contributed greatly to the air pollution costs.

The study concluded that increasingly stringent regulations, implemented or proposed, on air pollution emissions has resulted in reduced costs, but warn that they are still considerably high. Based on the study's data, the researchers advocated for continued stronger policies to further reduce overall air pollution costs.

Paulina Jaramillo of Carnegie Mellon University and Nicholas Z. Muller of Middlebury College co-authored the study, which was recently published in the journal Energy Policy.

Kimberly Arsenault Kimberly Arsenault serves as an intern at the Cleveland/Bradley County Emergency Management Agency where she works on plan revisions and special projects. Previously, Kimberly spent 15 years in commercial and business aviation. Her positions included station manager at the former Midwest Express Airlines, as well as corporate flight attendant, inflight manager, and charter flight coordinator. Kimberly currently holds a master's degree in emergency and disaster management from American Public University.