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Did the Clean Air Act Cause the Remarkable Decline in Sulfur Dioxide Concentrations?

  • Michael Greenstone

Over the last three decades, ambient concentrations of sulfur dioxide (SO2) air pollution have declined by approximately 80%. This paper tests whether the 1970 Clean Air Act and its subsequent amendments caused this decline. The centerpiece of this legislation is the annual assignment of all counties to SO2 nonattainment or attainment categories. Polluters face stricter regulations in nonattainment counties. There are two primary findings. First, regulators pay little attention to the statutory selection rule in their assignment of the SO2 nonattainment designations. Second, SO2 nonattainment status is associated with modest reductions in SO2 air pollution, but a null hypothesis of zero effect generally cannot be rejected. This finding holds whether the estimated effect is obtained with linear adjustment or propensity score matching. Overall, the evidence suggests that the nonattainment designation played a minor role in the dramatic reduction of SO2 concentrations over the last 30 years.

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File URL: http://tisiphone.mit.edu/RePEc/mee/wpaper/2004-007.pdf
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Paper provided by Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research in its series Working Papers with number 0407.

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Date of creation: Sep 2003
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Handle: RePEc:mee:wpaper:0407
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  1. James J. Heckman & Hidehiko Ichimura & Petra Todd, 1998. "Matching As An Econometric Evaluation Estimator," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 65(2), pages 261-294.
  2. Rajeev H. Dehejia & Sadek Wahba, 2002. "Propensity Score-Matching Methods For Nonexperimental Causal Studies," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 84(1), pages 151-161, February.
  3. Henderson, J Vernon, 1996. "Effects of Air Quality Regulation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(4), pages 789-813, September.
  4. Michael R Ransom & C. Arden Pope Iii, 1995. "External Health Costs Of A Steel Mill," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 13(2), pages 86-97, 04.
  5. Heckman, James J. & Robb, Richard Jr., 1985. "Alternative methods for evaluating the impact of interventions : An overview," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 30(1-2), pages 239-267.
  6. Randy Becker & Vernon Henderson, 2000. "Effects of Air Quality Regulations on Polluting Industries," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(2), pages 379-421, April.
  7. James J. Heckman, 2001. "Micro Data, Heterogeneity, and the Evaluation of Public Policy: Nobel Lecture," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(4), pages 673-748, August.
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