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POLS 230 - Introduction to Policy Analysis

Student ID 800289612 - Laura Ruiz Oltra


Discussion paper 9 – Friday 10/25

Consider a specific environmental protection policy, such as the Clean Air Act,
Clean Water Act, or CERCLA (Superfund). What kind of information would allow
you to determine how successful the policy has been?

It is difficult to evaluate the outcomes of environmental policies because they need long

term commitment to come to fruition, and because the outcomes are not easily quantified.

This is usually the problem with these public policies: they have short-term and highly

visible costs that discourage politicians and public opinion to implement them, in

opposition to the long-term gains in public and environmental health, which do not

produce an immediate incentive effect.

But not seeing instant results does not mean that these public environmental policies do

not meet their goals. In fact, the evidence suggests that US pblic policies on this matter

have been quite successful on the whole.

How can we determine whether or not an environmental policy has been successful? For

example, if I had to evaluate the Clean Air Act outcomes, I would use the data bases listed

below.

Luckily, at present there exist several organizations that gather and offer information on

environmental issues, such as air pollution or surface water quality, among many others.

Moreover, the US federal government itself created in 1970 an independent agency for

environmental protection, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which also

releases lots of official reports on the matter. Some of these agencies are the Cato Institute,

the Environmental Defense Fund, the Heritage Foundation or the Natural Resources

Defense Council.
The EPA estimates that, between 1980 and 2014, aggregate emissions of the six principal

air pollutants decreased by 63%1, and emissions of toxic chemicals to the air dropped by

over 60% between 1990 and 2011, as a result of implementing air quality regulations.2

So, as I mentioned before, evidence shows that it has been successful.

My conclusion is that for this matter, we can only rely on trustful agencies and websites

that do research on water and air quality, pollution levels, and a long list of etceteras, as

we are not scientists or environment researchers, bur policymakers, and are here to analize

the data, not to compile it.

1
Kraft and Furlong 418
2
Kraft and Furlong 418