EPA Air Quality Report Touts American Innovation For Emissions Reductions, Economic Growth
Emissions of six key pollutants dropped 73 percent between 1970 and 2017 while the economy grew and population surged, according to the latest report released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this week.
The EPA’s annual “Our Nation’s Air: Status and Trends Through 2017” report documents the dramatic reduction in emissions while noting that the nation’s economy more than tripled.
“Today Americans breathe cleaner air and face lower risks of adverse health effects,” EPA said. The agency credited technological innovations are helping to drive both improvements in air quality while also growing the economy.
“The U.S. leads the world in having clean air and a strong economy due to implementation of the Clean Air Act and technological advancements from American innovators,” the agency continued.
The EPA’s interim administrator credited America’s private sector as a critical part of the reductions, and noted that media has been slow to acknowledge the country’s progress in reducing emissions.
“Through federal and state implementation of the Clean Air Act and technological advances in the private sector, America has achieved one of the great public-private successes of our time – dramatically improving air quality and public health while simultaneously growing the nation’s population and economy,” said Acting Administrator Wheeler. “This report details a remarkable achievement that should be recognized, celebrated, and replicated around the world. A 73 percent reduction in any other social ill, such as crime, disease, or drug addiction, would lead the evening news.”
A closer snapshot of emissions reductions shows decreases across the board—sulfur dioxide down 88 percent while ground-level ozone declined 22 percent.
According to the report, GDP between 1970 and 2017 soared 262 percent, with vehicle miles traveled jumping 189 percent. Meanwhile, even as population increased 59 percent, energy consumption went up a modest 44 percent.
“Between 1970 and 2017, the combined emissions of the six common pollutants (PM2.5 and PM10, SO2, NOx, VOCs, CO and Pb) dropped by 73 percent. This progress occurred while the U.S. economy continued to grow, Americans drove more miles and population and energy use increased,” EPA wrote.
The EPA underscored what it said in last year’s report, as emissions, visibility, and other measurements continue to improve.
Air quality improvements includes national ambient air quality standards, or NAAQS attainment.
“Through successful state led implementation, numerous areas across the country are showing improvement and fewer areas are in nonattainment. Since 2010, there were no violations of the standards for CO and NO2,” EPA wrote.
Increased visibility is apparent at the nation’s national parks and wilderness areas, according to the agency.
“In general, in eastern parks and wilderness areas (including areas such as Shenandoah National Park, VA and Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, GA), the average visual range (the distance a visitor can see) has improved from 50 miles in 2000 to 70 miles in 2015,” EPA writes at its “Protecting Our Nation’s Treasured Vistas” site.
The improvement is even more dramatic in Western states, thanks to the Regional Haze Program.
“In western parks and wilderness areas (including areas such as Arches National Park, UT and John Muir Wilderness, CA), the average visual range has improved from 90 miles to 120 miles over the same period. These improvements in visibility are due to reductions of one of the most basic forms of air pollution – haze,” the agency said.
Improving America’s national parks is also a priority for the Department of the Interior, with the National Park Service maintenance backlog standing at $11.6 billion.