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The Impact of 20 Years of Pollution Prevention Projects


Highlights

  • Abt evaluated the impact of more than 370,000 pollution prevention projects
  • Our methodology compared individual facilities and looked at the big picture
  • Our findings provide valuable information for decision making and resource allocation
The Challenge

Do pollution prevention projects reduce toxic releases? If so, by how much? Understanding their impact would provide valuable input to efforts to protect the nation’s environment. However, the sheer number — approximately 370,000 projects over 20 years — made coming up with answers a daunting task.

The Approach

Abt Associates developed an empirical approach for using retrospective analysis of historical toxics release inventory (TRI) data to evaluate the effectiveness of projects for the Environmental Protection Agency’s TRI program. We looked at individual facilities and the cumulative effect of these projects.

At the facility level, we compared the change in releases by facilities that implemented source reduction projects in a particular year against the change in releases from similar facilities that did not implement projects that year.

To calculate in the aggregate, we simulated how much higher releases would have been with no source reduction projects, all else remaining same.

The Results

Abt’s methodology quantified and compared a complex set of projects and facilities. While the estimates span a wide range and have caveats, they suggest source reduction is an effective tool to reduce releases of toxic chemicals. An article in the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology details our approach and findings.