NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

On Air Quality, Good News is Not News

October 22, 2002

The Environmental Protection Agency's recently released "Latest Findings on National Air Quality" confirms the good news that America's air quality is improving. Unfortunately, many involved in environmental issues insist on telling the public otherwise.

The report details the positive trends for virtually every major pollutant covered by the Clean Air Act (CAA). It states that "since 1970, aggregate emissions of the six principal pollutants tracked nationally have been cut 25 percent." Consequently, air quality has "shown improvements over the past 20 years for all six principal pollutants." Other CAA programs, such as the one designed to fight acid rain, have also yielded emissions reductions.

However, much of the media apparently decided that good news was no news -- and largely ignored the report. In contrast, scary claims of poor air quality from activist organizations get far more attention.

  • For example, the American Lung Association's annual State of the Air, which invariably gives a failing grade to more than half the nation's counties and cities, always generates massive coverage.
  • And, the U.S. Public Interest Research Groups' heavily publicized Danger in the Air not only painted a gloomy picture of air quality, but also blamed President Bush for allegedly trying to allow polluters "to emit millions of tons of additional smog-forming pollutants into our already smoggy skies."

These group studies relied on the same EPA data summarized by the agency in its report. In other words, the actual conclusions from the agency responsible for compiling the evidence received far less media attention than the misleading spin from third parties, critics say.

Source: Ben Lieberman (Competitive Enterprise Institute), "Air Ball," TechCentralStation., October 14, 2002.


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