Statutory arteriosclerosis
Should EPA set an air quality standard for greenhouse gases? And why the arguments to the contrary prove the Clean Air Act is obsolete

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Industrial air pollution

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Controversy over how the Environmental Protection Agency should control greenhouse gases through the Clean Air Act has pitted the agency and some environmental groups against other environmental groups. The controversy is worth understanding because it reveals a pivotal development that EPA and the environmental groups would prefer to conceal: the 40-year-old Clean Air Act is no longer a sensible way to regulate large-volume conventional air pollutants such as ozone and particulate matter. Congress should replace the core of this venerable statute and its State Implementation Plans with an updated, market-based approach such as that proposed by Breaking the Logjam, a joint project of New York Law School and New York University School of Law to suggest reform of our obsolescing environmental statutes. Reform of the CAA would require legislators to take responsibility for choosing how fast to cut pollution and how to allocate costs. Congressional accountability would mean less power for EPA and environmental groups--but better air quality and more economic growth. Such reform would also ease eventual passage of much-needed greenhouse gas legislation.

David Schoenbrod is a visiting scholar at AEI.

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