"The Clean Air Act is a law with a 40-year track record of cutting dangerous pollution to protect human health and the environment. Administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), this legislation has prevented more than 400,000 premature deaths and hundreds of millions of cases of respiratory and cardiovascular disease."
Quotes on Clean Air Act
"I AM GLAD to approve this legislation which is to be known as the Clean Air Act. It will make possible a national effort to control air pollution, a serious and growing threat to both our health and our safety. Ninety percent of the population of our cities, over 100 million people, already suffer from a degree of air pollution that demands immediate action. ...
Now, under this legislation, we can halt the trend toward greater contamination of our atmosphere. We can seek to control industrial wastes discharged into the air. We can find the ways to eliminate dangerous haze and smog."
"The air that is the very essence of life has become a carrier for disease and for early death. Between 1930 and 1960 the number of deaths from one respiratory disease alone increased by 800 percent.
But air pollution is also a drain on our resources. In the United States alone it accounts for more than $11 billion in economic damages. This amounts to nearly $30 a year for every man, woman, and child in our Nation. And yet our expenditure on air pollution control is less than 20 cents a year per citizen.
We made a hopeful beginning toward solving this problem with the Clean Air Act of 1963."
"The Congress finds—
(1) that the predominant part of the Nation’s population is located in its rapidly expanding metropolitan and other urban areas, which generally cross the boundary lines of local jurisdictions and often extend into two or more States;
(2) that the growth in the amount and complexity of air pollution brought about by urbanization, industrial development, and the increasing use of motor vehicles, has resulted in mounting dangers to the public health and welfare, including injury to agricultural crops and livestock, damage to and the deterioration of property, and hazards to air and ground transportation;
(3) that air pollution prevention (that is, the reduction or elimination, through any measures, of the amount of pollutants produced or created at the source) and air pollution control at its source is the primary responsibility of States and local governments; and
(4) that Federal financial assistance and leadership is essential for the development of cooperative Federal, State, regional, and local programs to prevent and control air pollution."
"If I can summarize briefly, I think that 1970 will be known as the year of the beginning, in which we really began to move on the problems of clean air and clean water and open spaces for the future generations of America.
I think 1971 will be known as the year of action. And as we look at action, I would suggest that this bill is an indication of what action can be, because if this bill is completely enforced, within 4 years it will mean that the emissions from automobiles which pollute the environment will be reduced by 90 percent."
"Congress initially responded to the problem of air pollution by offering encouragement and assistance to the States. In 1955, the Surgeon General was authorized to study the problem of air pollution, to support research, training, and demonstration projects, and to provide technical assistance to state and local governments attempting to abate pollution. ... In 1960, Congress directed the Surgeon General to focus his attention on the health hazards resulting from motor vehicle emissions. ... The Clean Air Act of 1963, ... authorized federal authorities to expand their research efforts, to make grants to state air pollution control agencies, and also to intervene directly to abate interstate pollution in limited circumstances. Amendments in 1965 ... and in 1966 ... broadened federal authority to control motor vehicle emissions and to make grants to state pollution control agencies.
The focus shifted somewhat in the Air Quality Act of 1967.... It reiterated the premise of the earlier Clean Air Act 'that the prevention and control of air pollution at its source is the primary responsibility of States and local governments.' ... Its provisions, however, increased the federal role in the prevention of air pollution by according federal authorities certain powers of supervision and enforcement. But the States generally retained wide latitude to determine both the air quality standards which they would meet and the period of time in which they would do so."
"The response of the States to these manifestations of increasing congressional concern with air pollution was disappointing. Even by 1970, state planning and implementation under the Air Quality Act of 1967 had made little progress. Congress reacted by taking a stick to the States in the form of the Clean Air Amendments of 1970, ... enacted on December 31 of that year. These Amendments sharply increased federal authority and responsibility in the continuing effort to combat air pollution. Nonetheless, the Amendments explicitly preserved the principle: 'Each State shall have the primary responsibility for assuring air quality within the entire geographic area comprising such State. . . .' ... The difference under the Amendments was that the States were no longer given any choice as to whether they would meet this responsibility. For the first time, they were required to attain air quality of specified standards, and to do so within a specified period of time."
"I am pleased to sign into law H.R. 6161, the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1977. ...
With this legislation, we can continue to protect our national parks and our major national wilderness areas and national monuments from the degradation of air pollution. Other clean air areas of the country will also be protected, at the same time permitting economic growth in an environmentally sound manner.
The act provides us with a new tool to help abate industrial sources of pollution by authorizing use of economic incentives to reduce noncompliance. By directing the Environmental Protection Agency to establish monetary penalties equal to the cost of cleanup, those industries which delay installing abatement equipment will no longer be rewarded in the marketplace."
"The 1970 Clean Air Act got us moving in the right direction with national air quality standards that were strengthened by amendments in 1977. Since 1970, even though we have 55 percent more cars going 50 percent farther, in spite of more utility output and more industrial production, we've still made progress. Lead concentrations in the air we breathe are down 98 percent. Sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide cut by over a third. Particulate matter cut 21 percent; even ozone-causing emissions have been cut by 17 percent. And still, over the last decade, we have not come far enough.
Too many Americans continue to breathe dirty air. And political paralysis has plagued further progress against air pollution. We have to break this logjam by applying more than just Federal leverage. We must take advantage of the innovation, energy, and ingenuity of every American."
"Today I am very proud on behalf of everyone here to sign this clean air bill -- Clean Air Act of 1990.
This landmark legislation will reduce air pollution each year by 56 billion pounds -- that's 224 pounds for every man, woman, and child in America. It will go after the three main types of air pollution: acid rain, smog, and toxic air pollutants. This bill will cut emissions that cause acid rain in half and permanently cap them at these new levels. It will reduce pollutants that cause smog in our cities by 40 percent, so that by the year 2000, over 100 major American cities with poor air quality will have safer, healthier air. And it will cut dangerous air toxics emissions by over 75 percent, using new technologies. And by the next decade, its alternative fuel provisions will help reduce our dependence on foreign oil. This bill means cleaner cars, cleaner power plants, cleaner factories, and cleaner fuels; and it means a cleaner America. Virtually every person in every city and every town will enjoy its benefits.
This legislation isn't just the centerpiece of our environmental agenda. It is simply the most significant air pollution legislation in our nation's history, and it restores America's place as the global leader in environmental protection."
"Again, I say, as with all of our other efforts in the environment over the last three decades, America has proven wrong the skeptics who claim that the cost of fighting pollution would be ruinous. In fact, listen to this, since 1970 the direct benefits of the Clean Air Act—lower health costs and fewer days work lost, for example—have outweighed the cost of the Clean Air Act by more than $1 trillion."
"The Senate directly focused upon the technical feasibility and cost of implementing the [Clean Air] Act’s mandates. And it made clear that it intended the Administrator to develop air quality standards set independently of either. The Senate Report for the 1970 amendments explains:
'In the Committee discussions, considerable concern was expressed regarding the use of the concept of technical feasibility as the basis of ambient air standards. The Committee determined that 1) the health of people is more important than the question of whether the early achievement of ambient air quality standards protective of health is technically feasible; and, 2) the growth of pollution load in many areas, even with application of available technology, would still be deleterious to public health. . . .
'Therefore, the Committee determined that existing sources of pollutants either should meet the standard of the law or be closed down . . . .' ... (emphasis added).
Indeed, this Court, after reviewing the entire legislative history, concluded that the 1970 amendments were 'expressly designed to force regulated sources to develop pollution control devices that might at the time appear to be economically or technologically infeasible.'"
"Neither epidemiology nor toxicology supports the idea that exposures to environmental levels of synthetic industrial chemicals are important as a cause of human cancer.... Epidemiological studies have identified several factors that are likely to have a major effect on lowering cancer rates: reduction of smoking, improving diet (e.g., increased consumption of fruits and vegetables), hormonal factors, and control of infections.... Although some epidemiological studies find an association between cancer and low levels of industrial pollutants, the associations are usually weak, the results are usually conflicting, and the studies do not correct for potentially large confounding factors such as diet.... Moreover, exposures to synthetic pollutants are very low and rarely seem toxicologically plausible as a causal factor, particularly when compared to the background of natural chemicals that are rodent carcinogens.... Even assuming that worst-case risk estimates for synthetic pollutants are true risks, the proportion of cancer that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could prevent by regulation would be tiny...."
"With the landmark Clean Air Act of 1970, our Nation set high goals for air quality. And this administration strongly supports those goals. I believe that by combining the ethic of good stewardship and the spirit of innovation, we will continue to improve the quality of our air and the health of our economy and improve the chance for people to have a good life here in America.
You know, a lot of times I talk about the fact that we can grow our economy and protect our environment. We've shown over the last decades that that is possible. Our economy has grown 164 percent in three decades. According to the EPA report released yesterday, air pollution from six major pollutants is down by 48 percent during that time. It's possible to grow the economy and protect the air. We're proving it here in America."
"Most of what Americans 'know' about air pollution is false. Polls show most Americans believe air pollution: 1) has been steady or rising during the last few decades, 2) will worsen in the future and 3) is a serious threat to people's health. Yet, as a recent NCPA study by air researcher Joel Schwartz shows, air pollution across the United States has been declining for decades - and was declining even before passage of the 1970 Clean Air Act."
"Global warming may be a 'crisis,' even 'the most pressing environmental problem of our time.' Pet. for Cert. 26, 22. Indeed, it may ultimately affect nearly everyone on the planet in some potentially adverse way, and it may be that governments have done too little to address it. It is not a problem, however, that has escaped the attention of policymakers in the Executive and Legislative Branches of our Government, who continue to consider regulatory, legislative, and treaty-based means of addressing global climate change."
"The most serious claim leveled against air pollution is that even at current levels it kills tens of thousands of Americans each year. The EPA credits federal pollution regulation with preventing hundreds of thousands of premature deaths during the last 35 years, and, as a result, believes the Clean Air Act has delivered tens of trillions of dollars in benefits. But the existence of these benefits depends on whether the comparatively low air pollution of the last few decades is deadly. Controlled human and animal studies suggest that it is not."
"Still, if air pollution is not the threat most Americans think it is, don’t we have the Clean Air Act and aggressive regulatory authorities to thank? Not really.
Regulators and environmentalists have created the impression that air pollution was on an ever-rising trajectory before the federal government stepped in to protect Americans from unrestrained capitalism. In reality, air pollution had been dropping for decades before the 1970 adoption of the modern Clean Air Act.
Pittsburgh reduced particulate levels by more than 75 percent between the early 1900s and 1970. Chicago, Cincinnati, and New York all have records going back to the 1930s or 1940s showing large reductions in smoke levels. Nationwide monitoring data demonstrate that particulate levels declined nearly 20 percent between 1960 and 1970, while sulfur dioxide declined more than 30 percent. Los Angeles began reducing ozone smog in the 1950s, soon after skyrocketing population and driving created this new form of air pollution. Ozone levels in Los Angeles have been dropping ever since.
Air pollution is not unique in this respect. For decades before the federal government got involved, a range of environmental concerns was being mitigated by a combination of ad hoc local and state regulation, nuisance lawsuits, and market forces that pushed for better efficiency and technology."
"By the mid- to late-1990s, regulatory economists estimated that the Clean Air Act was costing Americans on the order of 1 to 2 percent of GDP per year—about $1,000 to $2,000 per household. The incremental costs of attaining the tougher ozone and PM2.5 standards that the EPA has adopted since then will likely add an additional $1,000 or so a year to the average household’s outlay, but will provide little or no incremental health benefit in return. ...
Federal air quality regulation suffers from incentives to create requirements that are unnecessarily stringent, intrusive, bureaucratic, and costly. The Clean Air Act charges the EPA with setting air pollution health standards. But this means that federal regulators decide when their own jobs are finished. Not surprisingly, no matter how clean the air, the EPA continues to find unacceptable risks. The EPA is like a company that gets to decide how much of its product customers must buy. Congress also charges the agency with evaluating the costs and benefits of its own programs. Not surprisingly, the EPA finds the benefits to be far in excess of the costs."
"The Clean Air Act is a model of redundancy. Virtually every type of pollutant is regulated by not one but several overlapping provisions. Terms of art like 'air pollutant' and 'public health' appear throughout the statute, as do a number of non-discretionary duties for EPA. Any finding that carbon dioxide from motor vehicles is a pollutant that endangers public health or welfare would unleash costly regulations for activities throughout the economy."
"The Clean Air Act provides the tools necessary for the U.S. to commit to the deep and rapid greenhouse emissions reductions—on the order of 45% or more below 1990 levels by 2020—needed to avert the worst impacts of climate change. National pollution caps for greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act would provide a scientific benchmark to guide all national climate policy. These national pollution caps also would serve as the basis for development of emissions reduction trajectories to achieve those limits. Those reductions would then be implemented by the states through updates of their existing 'state implementation plans.' Because the existing Clean Air Act not only facilitates but requires such efforts, the Obama administration need not gamble on whether Congress will pass new climate legislation, but rather should move quickly to commit to such reductions in the international climate negotiations of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change."
"Climate change obviously poses global problems. Yet these problems cannot be solved unless each nation limits its own emissions sufficiently to achieve its share of the reductions necessary to stabilize atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations below dangerous levels. With the Clean Air Act, the Obama administration and the EPA already have in their grasp a set of uniquely effective tools to reach this goal: existing and robust legal authority to set national pollution limits for greenhouse gases and to facilitate preparation of state implementation plans that will move toward attainment of those limits."
"The Clean Air Act is one of the most efficient and successful environmental laws ever devised, and its science and technology-based mechanisms are time-tested and well understood by both industry and state and federal agencies throughout the nation. This comprehensive, yet flexible and cooperative, pollution reduction system is well-suited to combat the greatest environmental crisis the modern world has faced—global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions. The Obama administration can and must begin using its authority under the Clean Air Act towards this end."
"The Clean Air Act is among the most complex regulatory statutes in American law. It creates a wide variety of regulatory schemes targeted at different types and sources of air pollution, grants significant discretion to the EPA in implementing these schemes, and divides regulatory responsibility between federal and state governments. ... The majority of the CAA is devoted to regulation of air pollution from two types of sources: mobile and stationary."
"Air quality was improving before the passage of the 1970 CAA. Environmentalists should give more credit to innovation and less to top-down regulation. The air quality improvements are attributable to the cost-saving, energy-efficiency gains made by business and industry that go hand-in-hand with environmental improvement."
"Congress didn’t allow EPA to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. Administrator Jackson even agreed with the statement two years ago that the Clean Air Act 'is not specifically designed to address greenhouse gases'.
We also know that EPA’s own analysis shows its actions won’t affect climate change, and the scientific basis of its endangerment finding, which the Administrator confirmed to me is the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, is flawed."
"EPA’s actions under the Clean Air Act are part of the cap-and-trade agenda. That agenda wants higher energy prices for consumers, higher taxes for citizens, more regulations on small businesses, more restrictions on choices, and ultimately less freedom. Supporters believe these things will stop global warming. They won’t.
EPA claims the Supreme Court forced it to act. Not so; the Supreme Court ruled that EPA possessed the discretion under the Clean Air Act to decide whether greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare. EPA was given a choice, and it made the wrong choice. The Energy Tax Prevention Act is the right choice for jobs, for consumers, for a growing economy, and for the future of America."
"I respectfully ask the members of this Committee to keep in mind that EPA’s implementation of the Clean Air Act saves millions of American adults and children from the debilitating and expensive illnesses that occur when smokestacks and tailpipes release unrestricted amounts of harmful pollution into the air that all of us breathe. In 1990 alone, EPA’s implementation of the Act prevented an estimated 18 million child respiratory illnesses, 850,000 asthma attacks, 674,000 cases of chronic bronchitis, and 205,000 premature deaths. ... If Congress allows EPA to continue implementing the Act, then the benefits of that work are projected to reach $2 trillion in 2020 alone."
"As the Committee knows, EPA began regulating GHGs in 2010. EPA has taken the position that its regulation flows from the Supreme Court decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, 549 U.S. 497 (2007), a case that began with a petition to EPA to regulate GHG emissions from new motor vehicles. Massachusetts found that GHGs are within what the Court termed the CAA’s 'capacious' definition of 'air pollutant' as any substance or matter emitted to the air.
According to the Court, however, the fact that GHGs are 'air pollutants' does not require EPA to regulate GHG emissions. The Court said that CAA air pollutants may only be regulated if EPA makes an 'endangerment finding' – a finding (in the specific context of the Massachusetts case) that GHGs emitted by new motor vehicles 'cause, or contribute to, air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.' The Court remanded the case to EPA to do one of three things: find endangerment, find no endangerment, or determine that EPA is justified in making neither finding based on factors set forth in the CAA."
"Despite the urgent need to combat climate change and the significant societal and economic benefits flowing from reducing greenhouse gas pollution, the Clean Air Act is under intense assault from polluters and their allies in Congress. Parroting the same disproven assertions used against the Clean Air Act for decades, polluters are aggressively seeking to strip EPA of its authority to reduce greenhouse gas pollution on the grounds that any such regulations would, in the words of Representative Joe Barton (R-TX), 'put the American economy in a straitjacket.'"
"There's nothing reasonable or balanced about the Environmental Protection Agency's proposal to tighten national air-quality standards for ozone emissions at this time. For one thing, it's premature, coming a full two years before the EPA is scheduled to complete its own scientific study of ozone emissions in 2013.
The EPA's new standards are currently under review by the Office of Management and Budget but could end up on the president's desk in the next few days. If implemented, they would reduce the existing 0.075 parts per million (ppm) ozone standard under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards program to 0.070 ppm or even 0.60 ppm.
This will mean that up to 85% of the counties currently monitored by the EPA would fall into 'nonattainment' status, exceeding the air-quality ozone standards and triggering a cascade of federal and state controls.
The EPA estimates these new standards could cost business anywhere from $20 billion to $90 billion annually. New or expanding companies would be required to obtain emission offsets and install controls. Existing businesses would face expensive new retrofit requirements just to keep operating as they have for years."
"I want to be clear: My commitment, and the commitment of my administration, to protecting public health and the environment is unwavering. I will continue to stand with the hard-working men and women at the EPA as they strive every day to hold polluters accountable and protect our families from harmful pollution. And my administration will continue to vigorously oppose efforts to weaken EPA's authority under the Clean Air Act or dismantle the progress we have made."
"The Clean Air Act was passed in 1963, and was last significantly amended over 20 years ago, in 1990. That should raise the question of why the EPA has only now realized that it needs so many more bureaucrats to administer it. The answer is that the Clean Air Act doesn't apply to the emissions of what we now call greenhouse gases (GHG), especially carbon dioxide (CO2), from power generation.
The notion that the Act would empower the EPA to regulate GHG emissions began only a few years ago, when, at the height of global warming alarmism, a group of blue states, led by Massachusetts, banded together with a gamut of environmental pressure groups to sue the EPA, contending that greenhouse gases were indeed pollutants and that the EPA should regulate them under the Act. In short, the EPA, in its recent filings, is legitimizing a groundless activist lawsuit."
"...to treat CO2 and other such gasses as if they were particulate air pollution would eventually lead to the enforced deindustrialization of the United States. The expansion of the EPA would be the first step along that road. Yet the agency did not advance the argument that such an interpretation would lead to absurd results clearly not intended by Congress."
More About This Topic...
- Clean Air Act
- Clean Air Act (1970)
- Petition to Establish National Pollution Limits for Greenhouse Gases Pursuant to the Clean Air Act
- Benefits and Costs of the Clean Air Act, Retrospective Study, 1970 to 1990
- Opening Statement of Lisa P. Jackson Administrator, United States Environmental Protection Agency
- Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011
- The Clean Air Act Works: How the Landmark Pollution Law Can Benefit Our Climate, Health and Economy
- Breathe Easy on Air Quality
- Legal Consequences of EPA’s Endangerment Finding for New Motor Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emissions
- EPA Should Avoid Regulating Carbon Dioxide Emissions