Clean Air Act

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The first iteration of the Clean Air Act (CAA) was passed in 1963 by the 88th United States Congress and signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Significant amendments to the act were made in 1970, 1977 and, most recently, 1990. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), "Congress designed the Clean Air Act to protect public health and welfare from different types of air pollution caused by a diverse array of pollution sources."[1][2][3]

Background

In 1948, a mass of air pollution formed above Donora, Pennsylvania, killing 20 and causing some 6,000 of the town's 14,000 residents to take ill. In 1952, in London, England, 3,000 were killed as a result of a smog event known as the "Killer Fog." Studies released in 1959 linked smog to 1,200 deaths in Los Angeles, California over a ten-day period in August 1955. According to the EPA, these events and others like them "alerted [public officials] to the dangers that air pollution poses to public health."[2][4]

In 1947, California became the first state in the nation to enact air pollution control legislation. The California Air Pollution Control Act (CAPCA), signed into law by Governor Earl Warren on June 10, 1947, "authorized the creation of Air Pollution Control districts out of every county, with Los Angeles County, one of the most polluted areas in the nation, being the largest."[4]

In 1955, Congress passed the Air Pollution Control Act (APCA), which allocated funds for federal research into air pollution. This was the first federal air pollution legislation in the nation's history. APCA, however, did not empower the federal government to take regulatory action in air pollution matters. It was not until the passage of the Clean Air Act of 1963 that the federal government assumed any regulatory or enforcement authority over air quality concerns in the United States.[3]

In January 1955, in a special statement delivered to Congress recommending a public health program, President Dwight D. Eisenhower said:[5]

As a result of industrial growth and urban development, the atmosphere over some population centers may be approaching the limit of its ability to absorb air pollutants with safety to health. I am recommending an increased appropriation to the Public Health Service for studies seeking necessary scientific data and more effective methods of control.[6]

—President Dwight D. Eisenhower

Legislative history

DocumentIcon.jpg See bill: Clean Air Act

Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990
United States Congress
Full text:Link
Legislative history
Introduced:September 14, 1989 (in the United States Senate)
House vote:Passed without objection; May 23, 1990
Senate vote:89-11; April 3, 1990
Conference:October 26, 1990
Conference vote (House):401-25; October 26, 1990
Conference vote (Senate):89-10; October 27, 1990
President:George H.W. Bush
Signed:November 13, 1990

The original CAA, enacted in 1963, was the first federal legislation providing for air pollution control. The CAA of 1963 established an air pollution control program within the U.S. Public Health Service. The Air Quality Act of 1967 further expanded federal monitoring and regulatory authority regarding air quality. In 1970, the United States Congress approved major amendments to the CAA authorizing "the development of comprehensive federal and state regulations to limit emissions from stationary (industrial) sources and mobile sources." The adoption of the 1970 CAA amendments coincided with enactment of the National Environmental Policy Act, which formed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA, in turn, assumed responsibility for implementing the provisions of the CAA. Further substantial amendments were made to the CAA in 1977. The most recent major amendments were passed in 1990 (legislative history details pertaining to the 1990 amendments are provided in the graphic to the right).[3]

The table below summarizes key congressional actions related to air pollution control (major acts and amendments are noted in boldface text).

Clean Air Act and amendments, 1955-2004
Year Act Citation
1955 Air Pollution Control Act P.L. 84-159
1959 Reauthorization P.L. 86-353
1960 Motor vehicle exhaust study P.L. 86-493
1963 Clean Air Act P.L. 88-206
1965 Motor Vehicle Air Pollution Control Act P.L. 89-272, Title I
1966 Clean Air Act Amendments of 1966 P.L. 89-675
1967 Air Quality Act of 1967; National Air Emission Standards Act P.L. 90-148
1970 Clean Air Act Amendments of 1970 P.L. 91-604
1973 Reauthorization P.L. 93-13
1974 Energy Supply and Environmental Coordination Act of 1974 P.L. 93-319
1977 Clean Air Act Amendments of 1977 P.L. 95-95
1980 Acid Precipitation Act of 1980 P.L. 96-294, Title VII
1981 Steel Industry Compliance Extension Act of 1981 P.L. 97-23
1987 Clean Air Act 8-month Extension P.L. 100-202
1990 Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 P.L. 101-549
1995-96 Relatively minor laws amending the Act P.L. 104-6, 59, 70, 260
1999 Chemical Safety Information, Site Security and Fuels Regulatory Relief Act P.L. 106-40
2004 Amendments to §209 re small engines P.L. 108-199, Division G, Title IV, Section 428
Source: Congressional Research Service, "Clean Air Act: A Summary of the Act and Its Major Requirements," updated May 9, 2005

Key features

National Ambient Air Quality Standards

The act mandates that the EPA develop National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for harmful pollutants. Primary standards "provide public health protection, including protecting the health of 'sensitive' populations such as asthmatics, children and the elderly." Secondary standards "provide public welfare protection, including protection against decreased visibility and damage to animals, crops, vegetation and buildings." The table below summarizes these standards. Units of measure include parts per million (ppm) by volume, parts per billion (ppb) by volume, and micrograms per cubic meter of air (μg/m3).[7]

National Ambient Air Quality Standards as of October 2011
Pollutant Primary or secondary Averaging time Standard level Form
Carbon monoxide Primary 8-hour 9 ppm Not to be exceeded more than once per year
Carbon monoxide Primary 1-hour 35 ppm Not to be exceeded more than once per year
Lead Primary and secondary Rolling 3-month average 0.15 μg/m3 Not to be exceeded
Nitrogen dioxide Primary 1-hour 100ppb 98th percentile, averaged over 3 years
Nitrogen dioxide Primary and secondary Annual 53 ppb Annual mean
Ozone Primary and secondary 8-hour 0.075 ppm Annual fourth-highest daily maximum 8-hr concentration, averaged over 3 years
Particle pollution (PM2.5) Primary Annual 12 μg/m3 Annual mean, averaged over 3 years
Particle pollution (PM2.5) Secondary Annual 15 μg/m3 Annual mean, averaged over 3 years
Particle pollution (PM2.5) Primary and secondary 24-hour 35 μg/m3 98th percentile, averaged over 3 years
Particle pollution (PM10) Primary and secondary 24-hour 150 μg/m3 Not to be exceeded more than once per year on average over 3 years
Sulfur dioxide Primary 1-hour 75 ppb 99th percentile of 1-hour daily maximum concentrations, averaged over 3 years
Sulfur dioxide Secondary 3-hour 0.5 ppm Not to be exceeded more than once per year
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS)," accessed August 7, 2014

Areas that fail to meet any one of these standards are considered "non-attainment areas." The EPA maintains a current listing of non-attainment areas, which can be accessed here. The map below was prepared by the EPA and lists designated non-attainment areas in the United States as of July 2, 2014.[8][9]

EPA nonattainment counties July 2014.png

Emission standards for mobile sources

The CAA establishes emission standards for "mobile sources," which are defined as "vehicles, engines and motorized equipment that produce exhaust and evaporative emissions." Examples include (but are not limited to) automobiles, aircraft, locomotives and small engine devices (such as lawnmowers and dirt bikes). The EPA is charged with regulating emissions produced by mobile sources.[10][11]

Automobile emission standards were first established by the federal government in 1968. The CAA amendments of 1990 further strengthened these regulations. "Tier 1" standards were phased in between the 1994 and 1996 model years and reduced the hydrocarbon emission standard by 40 percent and the nitrogen oxides emission standard by 50 percent. "Tier 2" standards were phased in between model years 2004 and 2009 and required emission reductions of 77 percent to 95 percent.[10]

Toxic air pollutants

The 1990 amendments to the CAA required the development of federal programs "for protecting the public health and environment from exposure to toxic air pollutants." Toxic air pollutants are "known to cause or are suspected of causing cancer, birth defects, reproduction problems and other serious illnesses." The 1990 amendments to the CAA required the EPA to determine source categories for more than 180 toxic air pollutants. Further, the amendments required the EPA to establish technology-based emission standards, known as Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) requirements, for reducing emissions of these pollutants. In the event that there exists "a significant residual risk of adverse health effects or a threat of adverse environmental effects" after the implementation of MACT requirements, the EPA is authorized to establish and enforce health-based standards to rectify the situation. The CAA also authorizes the EPA to regulate emissions from "area sources" of pollution. Area sources are defined as "small, but numerous sources, such as gas stations or dry cleaners, that collectively emit significant quantities of hazardous pollutants."[10][12]

The 1990 amendments to the CAA established the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, which is "responsible for investigating accidents involving releases of hazardous substances, conducting studies and preparing reports on the handling of toxic materials and measures to reduce the risk of accidents." The EPA is charged with establishing prevention, detection and correction requirements for "catastrophic releases of toxic air pollutants" by major sources of such pollutants.[10]

See also

External links

References

  1. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "Clean Air Act Requirements and History," accessed August 7, 2014
  2. 2.0 2.1 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "Understanding the Clean Air Act," accessed August 7, 2014
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "History of the Clean Air Act," accessed August 7, 2014
  4. 4.0 4.1 Rice University Environmental and Energy Systems Institute - Shell Center for Sustainability, "Clean Air Act Implementation in Houston: An Historical Perspective 1970-2005," February 2005
  5. The American Presidency Project, "Dwight D. Eisenhower - Special Message to Congress Recommending a Health Program," January 31, 2005
  6. Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  7. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS)," accessed August 7, 2014
  8. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "Current Nonattainment Counties for All Criteria Pollutants," updated July 2, 2014
  9. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "Counties Designated "Nonattainment" for Clean Air Act's National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS)," updated July 2, 2014
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Congressional Research Service, "Clean Air Act: A Summary of the Act and Its Major Requirements," updated May 9, 2005
  11. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "Basic Information," accessed August 7, 2014
  12. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "Reducing Toxic Air Pollutants," accessed August 7, 2014