As we approach Earth Day 2012, I offer a sobering proposition: The blueprints of our major air and water pollution control statutes were flawed at birth. Designed for a smokestack economy that no longer exists, the statutes focus on inputs, not outcomes. They are based on technology standards that limit flexibility, discourage innovation, and are costly to adapt. While significant environmental improvements have been made, the United States is now losing ground.
This PERC Case Study spotlights the legislative flaw that entered our organic air and water statutes and now limits progress toward environmental protection. Command-and-control technology standards were set in place rather than the more flexible market based approach of performance standards.
Even EPA data tells us that we are losing ground in our efforts to reduce pollution. Instead of shopping for the lowest cost source of emission reductions–using international markets–we are stuck with standards designed for a smokestack economy.