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Air Quality Management in the United States
BOX 6-8 The State of the Environment Report—A Sign of a New Paradigm Emerging at EPA?
The list of limitations in tracking progress at the end of this chapter presents a sobering picture. While significant resources have been expended in the United States to identify air quality problems and to reduce the pollutant emissions believed to be fostering these problems, there appears to have been a far less concerted effort to track and document objectively and comprehensively the real-world benefits of AQM. Fortunately, a new paradigm appears to be emerging at EPA that recognizes the importance of such an effort. As this committee was completing its work, EPA released its Draft Report on the Environment (2003n). The purpose of the report was to identify and quantify environmental indicators “to better measure and report on progress toward environmental and human health goals and to ensure the Agency’s accountability to the public.” The report represents an important addition to an understanding of the state of the environment and of the limitations of data available for assessing progress. Few data are available that can be used to assess the impacts of AQM measures in the United States on specific human and ecological health goals. Even with large data collection efforts, the establishment of trends attributable to AQM will continue to be a formidable task for diseases such as cancer and asthma because of other strong risk factors. For those environmental indicators that have data, a continuous tracking of the indicators over a span of a decade or more will be needed to establish a trend and its relationship to AQM activities. Thus, long-term support for the activity initiated with the production of EPA’s Draft Report on the Environment is recommended (1) to ensure that EPA is able to produce a series of reports on a biannual or triannual basis, and (2) to provide the scientific and technical basis for environmental indicators that link human and ecological health outcomes with air quality.
Cost-benefit analyses of AQM carried out by EPA and others are limited by a lack of relevant data (for example, on the health effects of HAPs) and a reliance on controversial value judgments.
Data on costs, such as the PACE survey, are necessary to monitor the costs of CAA compliance and to identify cost-effective policies. However, inconsistent levels of funding in the past have undermined the ability of the PACE survey to provide a long-term data set and to serve as a tool to estimate costs.