Natural Resources

Fall 2011 Natural Resources Law Class at UB

The Right to Breathe September 25, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — andrewwanger @ 5:58 pm

American’s have had the right to breathe clean air ever since the Clear Air Act was passed in 1970.  However, there is a new up and coming act that may jeopardize this right, the Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation (TRAIN) Act.

If passed, the TRAIN act would require the EPA to consider the economic impacts of the polluters when setting the standards for air pollution. This act, therefore, can threaten the effectiveness of the Clean Air Act because previously, the standards for pollution only took into account medical and scientific considerations.

However, there are two interesting arguments for and against the TRAIN Act.  First, some say that the American public deserve a economic analysis of the EPAs actions regarding clean air because it effects jobs and big industry. However, the opposing side argues that sometimes the cost is irrelevant when it comes to the health of the American people because the law in its present state is expected to prevent sickness and death in the future.

This relates to the class because Obama’s Executive Order 13,563 seeks to promote “public health, welfare, safety, and our environment while promoting economic growth …” This article is right smack in the middle of these competing issues (public health and economics). How can the EPA consider any economic effect when they know that decreasing the standards for clean air could potentially harm thousands of people or more?


2 Responses to “The Right to Breathe”

  1. I always wonder where our “right to breathe clean air” comes from. Do you think it originated with the Clean Air Act? Did we need the federal law to recognize/create the right? Maybe it is just a natural right that everyone has.

  2. andrewwanger Says:

    After doing some more research, I discovered that the first relevant act passed was the Air Pollution Control Act of 1955 which authorized states and local governments to control pollution on their own terms. Thus, I believe this is where the recognized right originated. However, the federal government took a more direct role when they passed the Clean Air Act which actually set federal standards through the EPA.

    Moreover, I believe that everyone has a natural right to a clean environment in general. I think we do need the federal government to recognize the right in order to effectively maintain the environment for everyone. I think that if the old state run system was in place, certain states would suffer because politicians’ choices would be effected by big industry/lobbyists and economics rather then the effect on the environment. Additionally, it’s very plausible that one states lack of effective policing of pollution would carry over to neighboring states. Therefore, I believe that the federal system is probably the best entity for the job.

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