There have been constant battles over the past 40 years, especially during the years of the Bush Administration, over the amount of pollutants that could be put in the air in this country. Unfortunately, these battles have carried over into the Obama Administration. It’s a never ending battle, and there is one thing for sure, the polluters never give up. It might be good for us to take a look at the evolution of the Clean Air Act.
The first Clean Air Act was passed by Congress in 1963. While this legislation was not very strong, at least it was a step in the right direction. The first legislation of any real consequence was passed in 1970. That Act was designed to affect our lives in a positive manner and to protect our health and that of future generations. Since 1970, we have come a long way, certainly too far to go back to the days of filthy, dangerous contaminated air. The EPA will reassess the current standard for concentration of ozone in the outside air – now set at 75 parts per billion (ppb) – and the agency has the power and authority to affect tens of thousands of lives.
The EPA can either reduce the standard, increase it, or leave it as is. For example, if the EPA reduced the standard to 70 ppb, that would save up to 4,300 lives per year, avoid 6,700 hospital visits and 23,000 asthma attacks. But the EPA is under constant and tremendous pressure to relax the standards and that threatens the very air we breathe. There is currently legislation being pushed in Congress that would virtually cripple the EPA. The public must be informed and must fight to protect public health and safety.
The original Clean Air Act of 1963 established funding for the study and the cleanup of air pollution. But there was no comprehensive federal response to address air pollution until Congress passed the 1970 Act. Congress created the EPA during that same year and gave it the primary role in carrying out the newly-passed law. Since 1970, EPA has been responsible for a variety of Clean Air Act programs to reduce air pollution nationwide. Congress dramatically revised and expanded the Clean Air Act in 1990, providing EPA even broader authority to implement and enforce regulations reducing air pollutant emissions. The 1990 Amendments also placed an increased emphasis on more cost-effective approaches to reduce air pollution.
As most of our readers will likely know, the Clean Air Act covers the entire country. Even so, states, tribes and local governments do a lot of the work to meet the Act’s requirements. For example, representatives from these agencies work with companies to reduce air pollution. They also review and approve permit applications for industries or chemical processes. The EPA sets limits on certain air pollutants, including setting limits on how much can be in the air anywhere in the United States. In theory this should help to ensure basic health and environmental protection from air pollution for all Americans. The Clean Air Act also gives the EPA the authority to limit emissions of air pollutants coming from sources such as chemical plants, utilities, and steel mills. Individual states or tribes can have stronger air pollution laws, but they can’t have weaker pollution limits than those set by EPA. The key to the effectiveness of the Clean Air Act is strong, but fair, enforcement.
The EPA must approve state, tribal, and local agency plans for reducing air pollution. If a plan fails to meet the necessary requirements, the EPA can issue sanctions against the state. If necessary, the federal agency can take over enforcing the Clean Air Act in that area. The EPA assists state, tribal, and local agencies by providing research, expert studies, engineering designs, and funding to support clean air progress. Since 1970, Congress and the EPA have provided several billion dollars to the states, local agencies, and tribal nations to accomplish this.
In theory, it seems logical for state and local air pollution agencies to take the lead in carrying out the Clean Air Act. They should be able to develop solutions for pollution problems because of their special understanding of local industries, geography, housing, and travel patterns. State, local, and tribal governments also monitor air quality, inspect facilities under their jurisdictions and enforce Clean Air Act regulations. States have to develop State Implementation Plans (SIPs) that outline how each state will control air pollution under the Clean Air Act. A SIP is a collection of the regulations, programs and policies that a state will use to clean up polluted areas. The states are required to involve the public and industries through hearings and opportunities to comment on the development of each state plan.
Hopefully, the American people won’t let Congress take us back to the conditions that existed prior to 1970. We have made progress – although a great deal remains to be done – and we certainly can’t afford to lose ground. In fact, we need to increase our efforts and work to make our country healthier and safer.
Source: The EPA
Contact us today for a free legal consultation with an experienced attorney.
Fields marked *may be required for submission.
If you would like to subscribe to the Jere Beasley Report digital edition, simply visit our Subscriptions page and provide the necessary information or call us at 800-898-2034.
Attorney Advertising - Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.