The Clean Air Act

Read Complete Research Material


The Clean Air Act

The Clean Air Act


The Clean Air Act (1963), a landmark federal environmental law, is aimed at reducing air pollution in the United States. Widely regarded as a dramatic success in improving air quality and reducing health problems in the late 20th century, the act has changed the way Americans live and conduct business by regulating emissions that create smog, acid rain, toxic air pollution, and other airborne hazards produced by such sources as factories, power plants, and motor vehicles. The overall benefits of the law have included trillions of dollars and countless lives saved. Even so, millions of U.S. residents still breathe polluted air. Air pollution, its effects, and our progress in combating it are constantly in the news, especially in urban areas; this entry provides a brief introduction to the primary legal foundation of these efforts. (Klyza, 1994)

Background of Research

The U.S. Clean Air Act (CAA) is a federal law that attempts to improve air quality by regulating air pollution. The CAA was first enacted in 1970 but underwent major amendments in 1977 and 1990. These amendments added measures to prevent depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer and to control emissions related to acid rain. The act frames the responsibilities of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for establishing national air quality standards and sets deadlines for compliance. Although the CAA seeks to protect the environment from damage caused by air pollutants, the primary goal of the law is to safeguard public health. Many of the programs associated with the CAA are often regarded as successful; however, controversy surrounds the EPA's use of scientific evidence, its lack of conformity with review schedules, the establishment of implementation deadlines, and the costs of emissions compliance.

The content of the CAA (officially Title 42, Chapter 85 of the U.S. Code) includes six titles. Title I addresses the six most common pollutants, referred to as “criteria pollutants” (sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, lead, and particulate matter). It requires the EPA to determine National Ambient Air Quality Standards, which set permissible levels for each of these pollutants, and that each state to draft State Implementation Plans that describe measures for ensuring compliance. Noncompliant states must implement specified control measures and are subject to possible penalties. Title II regulates the emissions of motor vehicles, aircraft, and other “moving sources.” It also supports requirements related to the emissions of vehicle-assembly plants, adoption of low-sulfur diesel fuels, and in certain metropolitan areas, use of reformulated gasoline and vapor recovery nozzles. Title III controls the emission of hazardous or toxic pollutants connected with serious illness, including lead, mercury, and dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT). The CAA Amendment of 1990 expanded the list of included hazardous pollutants from seven to 187 and called for a shift from a focus on discrete pollutants to industry-wide regulation. Title IV provides oversight of industrial emissions related to acid deposition (“acid rain”). Control measures aim to reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides to half of 1980 emission ...
Related Ads