A look at the 1970 Clean Air Act

The Clean Air Act of 1970 remains one of the most relevant pieces of legislation to date in terms of the fight against air pollution. A major link in a chain of laws, policies, and amendments, many are unaware of the impact that it has had, and continues to have on society at large.

History of Clean Air

The clean air battle actually began officially in 1955 with the creation of the Air Pollution Control Act. However, this act merely provided the federal government with the funding to begin researching air pollution. This legislation was furthered in 1963 with the birth of the Clean Air Act which allowed the government to work within the U.S. Public Health Service in order to further develop research as well as to find tactics for monitoring and controlling said pollution. Then in 1967 the Air Quality Act introduced the first laws that allowed for law enforcement to intervene in certain instances of air pollution. Namely, “interstate air pollution transport”. Furthermore, this act allowed for further studies on both pollution and control efforts.

The Clean Air Act of 1970

As aforementioned, the CAA of 1970 changed everything. This legislation gave the clean air efforts of the past the permission to enforce both moving and stationary violations on both the local, and federal levels. It also birthed four different regulatory programs: the Standards (NAAQS and pronounced “knacks”), State Implementation Plans (SIPs), New Source Performance Standards (NSPS), and National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAPs). This also happened around the time the National Environmental Policy Act was established so, this single legislation pushed clean air and environmental issues from behind the scenes, to the forefront of every state in the country.

Subsequent Amendments

There were a number of amendments to this act post 1970; occurring in 1977, 1990, and 1995. These amendments expanded the scope of clean air to include things such as pollutant control, modified the standards of the NAAQS, expanded authority, and even phased out certain pollutants completely.

Although there’s arguable more that needs to be done about air pollution, it is very important to note the many contributions that the 1970 Clean Air Act has made to help increase the air quality in this country, and ultimately the world. Though this legislation occurred many decades ago, this act was vital. Indeed, it is quite literally, the air we breathe.