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The Impact of Pollution Prevention on Toxic Environmental Releases from U.S. Manufacturing Facilities

Ranson, Matthew, Cox, Brendan, Keenan, Cheryl, Teitelbaum, Daniel
Environmental Science & Technology 2015 v.49 no.21 pp. 12951-12957
United States Environmental Protection Agency, data collection, industry, inventories, pollution control, raw materials, toxic substances, toxicity, United States
Between 1991 and 2012, the facilities that reported to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) Program conducted 370 000 source reduction projects. We use this data set to conduct the first quasi-experimental retrospective evaluation of how implementing a source reduction (pollution prevention) project affects the quantity of toxic chemicals released to the environment by an average industrial facility. We use a differences-in-differences methodology, which measures how implementing a source reduction project affects a facility’s releases of targeted chemicals, relative to releases of (a) other untargeted chemicals from the same facility, or (b) the same chemical from other facilities in the same industry. We find that the average source reduction project causes a 9–16% decrease in releases of targeted chemicals in the year of implementation. Source reduction techniques vary in effectiveness: for example, raw material modification causes a large decrease in releases, while inventory control has no detectable effect. Our analysis suggests that in aggregate, the source reduction projects carried out in the U.S. since 1991 have prevented between 5 and 14 billion pounds of toxic releases.