Cato Policy Analysis No. 233 July 11, 1995

Policy Analysis

Time to Reopen the Clean Air Act:
Clearing Away the Regulatory Smog

by K. H. Jones and Jonathan Adler

K. H. Jones is the president of Zephyr Consulting Company in Seattle, Washington. Jonathan Adler is associate director of environmental studies at the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.


Executive Summary

National policy on the control of urban smog is misguided because it fails to account for current pollution trends and is based on the anomalous meteorological conditions of 1988. Although new data on smog have shown that the trends are continuing downward, the Environmental Protection Agency is doing little to halt regulatory overkill.

That is particularly true in the Ozone Transport Region--the 12 states from Virginia to Maine. The state-level regulatory programs are being coordinated through the Ozone Transport Commission, which was established under the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments. The OTC has proposed emissions control strategies that are not only unnecessary, ineffective, and expensive but are also scientifically insupportable. The OTC has encouraged the imposition of low- emission vehicle standards similar to California's, which include zero-emission vehicles or electric cars.

In response to the CAAA, the EPA has promoted various emission control strategies, including enhanced vehicle emission inspections and carpooling programs, that are similarly ill conceived. The sort of "control for control's sake" pollution control strategies pursued by the EPA and the OTC are largely inappropriate because they are neither cost- effective nor equitable means of achieving emissions reductions, even should such reductions be necessary. Moreover, most of those policies are based on faulty assumptions about the nature and severity of ozone air pollution in the United States today and the proper means of addressing it.

Those findings clearly suggest the need for legislative action to alleviate unneeded and costly regulatory mandates under the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments.

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