Federal programs to control environmental pollution are expected to cost the public and private sectors more than $360 billion between 1977 and 1986, the Environmental Protection Agency says.
The estimate, contained in a report to be distributed to members of Congress today, represents the agency's most comprehensive attempt to chart the costs of air and water pollution programs.
About two-thirds of the $360 billion figure is a result of the costs of complying with the Clean Air Act, while the remaining money represents the costs of complying with a variety of clean-water statutes.
Over the same period, the investment in private capitel needed to meet federal environmental standards will be about $142 billion, the report says.
But the report warns that the figures only include costs related to complying with federal laws on the books in early 1978. The figures could be altered dramatically, for example, if Congress passes proposed legislation that would set up a huge fund to pay for hazardous-waste clean-up operations.
The report also points out the steep increases in pollution-control costs that private industry will have to bear in the 1980s, increases particularly evident when the projections are compared with figures for the current decade.
The report notes that pollution-control costs for 1970 to 1977 were estimated to be about $84.8 billion, less than one-third the costs that would accumulate in the later period.
The report also details the expected pollution-control costs for particular industries, concluding that the fuels and energy industries will be paying about $72.5 billion for investments on pollution-control equipment.That figure includes the automotive industry.
EPA's study, which is required by both the Clean Air and Clean Water acts, is based on engineering estimates rather than industry surveys, and uses existing technologies instead of suggesting possible developments in air- and water-pollution-control sciences.
In addition to the soaring costs to private industry for controlling air and water pollution, federal and state governments will spend about $8.3 billion from 1977 to 1986 for their own programs, the EPA says.
The report comes as costs incurred by pollution-control laws are the subject of intense debate among members of Congress, economists and businessmen.
The business community and its Washington representatives have been arguing that environmental regulations are draining the nation's economy significantly and cutting into corporate capital needed for business growth.
On the other hand, environmentalists have been fighting efforts to weaken environmental laws and have been stressing the economic and social benefits of environmental regulation.
A report prepared for the EPA earlier this year by Data Resources Inc. concluded that federal environmental regulations had raised the consumer price index by about 2.7 percent. By 1986, that increase will be about 3.6 percent.
Further, that report suggested that the nation's gross national product is slightly higher as a result of environmental requirements, but that GNP would decrease by one percent by 1986 as a result of those statutes.
But the EPA and members of the scientific community also have been making substantial progress in developing methods of assessing the health benefits of environmental law.
A recent study conducted for the agency by a team of college professors indicates, for instance, that air pollution results in deaths costing the nation $5 billion to $16 billion a year and disease costing about $36 billion a year.