Distributional benefit analysis of a national air quality rule

  • Post E
  • Belova A
  • Huang J
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Abstract

Under Executive Order 12898, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must perform environmental justice (EJ) reviews of its rules and regulations. EJ analyses address the hypothesis that environmental disamenities are experienced disproportionately by poor and/or minority subgroups. Such analyses typically use communities as the unit of analysis. While community-based approaches make sense when considering where polluting sources locate, they are less appropriate for national air quality rules affecting many sources and pollutants that can travel thousands of miles. We compare exposures and health risks of EJ-identified individuals rather than communities to analyze EPA's Heavy Duty Diesel (HDD) rule as an example national air quality rule. Air pollutant exposures are estimated within grid cells by air quality models; all individuals in the same grid cell are assigned the same exposure. Using an inequality index, we find that inequality within racial/ethnic subgroups far outweighs inequality between them. We find, moreover, that the HDD rule leaves between-subgroup inequality essentially unchanged. Changes in health risks depend also on subgroups' baseline incidence rates, which differ across subgroups. Thus, health risk reductions may not follow the same pattern as reductions in exposure. These results are likely representative of other national air quality rules as well.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Air quality regulation
  • Distributional analysis
  • Environmental justice
  • Health benefits

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Authors

  • Ellen S. Post

  • Anna Belova

  • Jin Huang

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