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William Mitchell Magazine, Fall 1989


Federal and state laws limiting environmental emissions reflect three approaches to deciding how much money to spend on improving environmental quality. The balancing approach estimates the benefits of limiting emissions and the costs of meeting various limits, then sets limits at levels where benefits justify costs. The cost ignoring approach sets emissions limits at levels necessary to prevent environmental harm, without considering the costs of meeting those limits. Technology-based standards limit emissions to levels attainable using the best pollution control technology, as long as no significant environmental effects are known to occur at those levels. In this article, the author describes each of the three approaches and their advantages and disadvantages.