When Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and Representative Ed Whitfield (R-KY) led the failed Republican charge a few weeks ago to kill the Environmental Protection Agency's new Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, they cited hackneyed and discredited GOP arguments about job losses and the economic cost of regulation.
What they did not cite were the benefits this rule will rain down on our nation, especially those parts of it to our east. And there's a good reason. EPA estimates that by 2014 this rule will avoid the premature deaths of between 13,000 and 34,000 Americans a year. It will reduce the number of non-fatal heart attacks by 15,000 a year. It will avoid 19,000 emergency room visits a year. It will reduce upper and lower respiratory symptoms and aggravated asthma by 820,000 cases a year. It will reduce work and school days missed by a whopping 1.8 million a year!
While it is true that it costs money to improve the quality of our lives, focusing exclusively on the costs and not the benefits is childish from a policy making standpoint. If business ran that way, there would be no such thing as investment. For that matter, there would be no such thing as payroll.
The projected costs of the rule would be some $800 million (with an "m", not a "b") in 2014, and it is probably fair to add on another $1.6 billion in annual capital improvements that will be required as a result of an earlier, related rule. Without a doubt, those costs will be passed on to consumers in the 27 states required to reduce emissions. But as a result, 240 million Americans will have cleaner air, yielding health and environmental savings of, get this, between $120 billion and $280 billion annually (with a "b", not an "m").
It is maddening to think that Rand Paul and Ed Whitfield think it is a bad idea to spend $2-$3 billion in order to produce economic benefits of $120-$280 billion. But setting aside the obvious business sense this rule makes for our country, it is even more frustrating that they think $2 billion to $3 billion is too much to pay to save potentially 34,000 lives a year, all those heart attacks, all that asthma suffering, all those missed days of work, etc.
One wonders if there isn't a case to be made that trying to prevent this rule from happening ought to be met with 13,000 - 34,000 charges of attempted murder for the both of them.
Rand Paul, by the way, has received over $265,000 in donations to his campaign and leadership PAC from the mining, oil, and gas industries. Ed Whitfield, who has been in the game longer, has received over $385,000 from electric utilities, $275,000 from oil and gas companies, and $194,000 from the mining industry.
Louisville.com's The Arena section features opinions from active participants in the city's politics. Their viewpoints are not those of Louisville.com (a website is an inanimate object and, as such, has no opinions).
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