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August 24, 2014 8:45 AM Regulations. They do a planet and a country good.

By David Atkins

Those regulations that conservatives are always accusing of hurting America? They’re removing 3 million tons of toxins every year:

Actions taken by the Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Air Act have caused U.S. toxic air emissions to drop “significantly” — in some cases by more than half — since the law was amended in 1990, the regulatory agency told Congress in a report Thursday.
Since 1990, an estimated 3 million tons of toxins from mobile and stationary sources have been removed from the air every year, according to the report. Emissions of benzene, a pollutant found in natural gas, have dropped in outdoor air by 66 percent, while the amount of mercury from man-made sources like coal plants has dropped by nearly 60 percent, the report said. The amount of lead has decreased the most, by 84 percent since 1990.

That hasn’t just helped improve the health of Americans. It has also saved a huge amount of money on healthcare costs:

In addition, an estimated 1.5 million tons per year of air toxins like arsenic, benzene, lead, and nickel have been removed from stationary sources like power plants and factories, the report said. Pollutants like these can cause cancer, in addition to immune, respiratory, neurological, and reproductive problems, the EPA said.

It’s one of the extraordinary things about conservative politics that it not only places the needs and desires of corporate industry over the needs of people. It also ignores that complex broader economic benefits that accrue from commonsense regulations.

A theoretical libertarian paradise without regulations would not only be a moral and humanitarian disaster. It would also be an economic basketcase—not just because of instability and the lack of a middle class, but also because of the enormous and needless externalities society has to pay.

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