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Public Policy Approaches to the Control of Pollution

This approach is "in many ways the least efficient" (Ruff 28). According to Ruff, "the aim must be to find that level of pollution abatement where the costs of further abatement begin to exceed their benefits" (22). Regulatory authorities often lack sufficient information to make intelligent decisions concerning how complex pollution problems can be solved efficiently. Government can and does set environmental standards, for example, for achieving certain levels of protection of human health and safety, but the costs of environmental cleanup and the necessary investments in capital equipment are large. Spence and Weitzman say that "any mistake about those . . . costs and the implied appropriate regulatory activity can cost the economy as a whole many millions of dollars" and that "any regulatory process that involves repeated adjustment to new information [is] costly, time-consuming, and perhaps infeasible" (206 and 209).

In the United States, national environmental regulatory agencies have set national pollution control standards, but have left much of the burden for implementing those standards to the states and localities involved. Increasingly, however, in the 1970s and 1980s, progressively stricter and tighter environmental standards were imposed in many areas. Considerable success was achieved in resolving the most critical and simplest pollution control objectives, such as the control of auto emissions. A point of diminishing returns and a reaction


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