A Causal Inference Framework to Support Policy Decisions by Evaluating the Effectiveness of Past Air Pollution Control Strategies for the Entire United States

EPA Grant Number: R835872C004
Subproject: this is subproject number 004 , established and managed by the Center Director under grant R835872
(EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).

Center: Regional Air Pollution Mixtures
Center Director: Koutrakis, Petros
Title: A Causal Inference Framework to Support Policy Decisions by Evaluating the Effectiveness of Past Air Pollution Control Strategies for the Entire United States
Investigators: Dominici, Francesca , Barrett, Steven , Mickley, Loretta J. , Schwartz, Joel , Zigler, Corwin
Current Investigators: Zigler, Corwin , Barrett, Steven , Dominici, Francesca , Mickley, Loretta J. , Schwartz, Joel
Institution: Harvard University , Massachusetts Institute of Technology
EPA Project Officer: Ilacqua, Vito
Project Period: December 1, 2015 through November 30, 2020
RFA: Air, Climate And Energy (ACE) Centers: Science Supporting Solutions (2014) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Air , Climate Change , Air Quality and Air Toxics , Airborne Particulate Matter Health Effects

Objective:

We will develop a linked database with detailed information on emissions control technologies on 4,164 power plant units, continuously monitored emissions, ambient air quality, and Medicare hospitalization and mortality, for the period 1995 to 2015 (Objective 1). We will estimate the causal consequences of specific control strategies on emissions and ambient air quality with a new framework that combines statistical methods for causal inference with state-of-the-art atmospheric chemistry models (Objective 2). We will extend this framework to estimate causal benefits of specific control strategies on mortality and morbidity outcomes among the Medicare cohort across the entire US, without reliance on historical estimates of concentration-response functions (Objective 3). We will develop methods for causal mediation analysis to estimate the causal pathways through which specific strategies impact ambient air quality and health outcomes (Objective 4). Through these objectives, we will address EPA ACE Center Research Question 2 by identifying and comparing regional differences in strategies to modify harmful emissions from power-generating facilities, and address Research Question 3 by evaluating these strategies to gauge their effectiveness for improving air quality and public health amid the complex realities of actual program implementation. The insights gained from rigorous evaluation of past policies will address Research Question 4 by providing evidence of how programs could be extended to other spatial regions or climatic conditions.

Approach:

Our methods and analyses will be rooted in a set of linked data of unprecedented accuracy to evaluate specific actions taken at power plants amid the complexities of actual regulatory implementation. Statistical methods for causal inference will be combined with state-of-the-art methods for air quality modeling to address confounding, characterize air quality under real and hypothetical scenarios, estimate health impacts, and quantify causal pathways. Effectiveness of control actions will be compared in a multi-pollutant context to compare benefits and co-benefits of various strategies adopted to achieve regulatory standards.

Expected Results:

We will advance the development of robust integrated strategies for air pollution control by providing evidence of the comparative effectiveness of different control strategies for impacting air quality and public health. The tools provided will permit routine tracking of the impacts of specific control technologies and policies, thus creating accountability for results and informing adjustment of the air quality management system.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this subproject: View all 7 publications for this subprojectView all 38 publications for this center

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this subproject: View all 1 journal articles for this subprojectView all 29 journal articles for this center

Supplemental Keywords:

Accountability assessment, power-generating sector, intervention evaluation;

Progress and Final Reports:

2016 Progress Report


Main Center Abstract and Reports:

R835872    Regional Air Pollution Mixtures

Subprojects under this Center: (EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).
R835872C001 Project 1: Regional Air Pollution Mixtures: The Past and Future Impacts of Emission Controls and Climate Change on Air Quality and Health
R835872C002 Project 2: Air Pollutant Mixtures in Eastern Massachusetts: Spatial Multi-resolution Analysis of Trends, Effects of Modifiable Factors, Climate and Particle-induced Mortality
R835872C003 Project 3: Causal Estimates of Effects of Regional and National Pollution Mixtures on Health: Providing Tools for Policy Makers
R835872C004 A Causal Inference Framework to Support Policy Decisions by Evaluating the Effectiveness of Past Air Pollution Control Strategies for the Entire United States
R835872C005 Project 5: Projecting and Quantifying Future Changes in Socioeconomic Drivers of Air Pollution and its Health-Related Impacts