The original Clean Air Act was passed in 1963, but it is not what we know today as the Clean Air Act. It was the first piece of legislation to have the name ‘Clean Air Act’ and was a precursor to today’s Clean Air Act. It granted money to state and local governments for research and the creation of the air pollution control agencies and programs. It did not include actual standards for emissions from automobiles and stationary sources but it encouraged the creation and development of standards.
The original legislation was amended four times in 1965, 1966, 1967, and 1969. These amendments created the standards for automobile emissions, expanded the pollution control programs, created standards for stationary sources, and expanded research into better fuels and automobiles. From this act and its amendments, the modern Clean Air Act was created in 1970 and further amended in 1977 and 1990.
1970 Act and Amendments
The Clean Air Act of 1970 was passed to amend the earlier 1963 act and provide a better program to improve the nation’s air quality. The amendments rewrote the original act and provided for the creation of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), the New Source Performance Standards (NPS), the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAPs), and the State Implementation Plans (SIPs) to protect public health and regulate the emissions of existing and new stationary sources. Hazardous emissions standards were also created and money was given to research concerning noise pollution in cities. The act also established a citizen’s right to take legal action against people or an organization that is in violation of the standards set in the amendment.
The amendments in 1977 were made to set realistic goals; created motor vehicle emission standards and deadlines when they had to be met were extended as well as the first attempt to prevent destruction to the ozone layer which had been discovered a few years earlier. Non-attainment areas, which are geographic areas where the one or more air quality parameters do not meet the federal standards, for NAAQS were given special requirements pertaining to sources of air pollution in those areas. Permit review requirements were also established to facilitate the goals and maintenance of the NAAQS.
The 1970s act received major amendments in the 1990 Clean Air Act. These amendments increased the responsibility and authority of the federal government. Two new regulatory programs were authorized for creation and they pertained to the issuance of operating permits to stationary sources of air pollution and the control of acid rain. A new program for controlling toxic air pollutants was created and in incorporated the NESHAPs into it. Provisions for NAAQS attainment and maintenance were modified and expanded as well. Other revisions included provisions for stratospheric ozone protection, expanded research programs, and an enforcement authority increase.
In order to account for more realistic goals and standards, as well as increasing awareness of air pollution and its affects, the original act was amended several times over the course of its forty year history. Automobiles, gasoline, and what we know about the environment and the interactions with air pollution have changed greatly in that time. The programs, permitting, and standards have drastically reduce the amount of pollutants heading into the air from stationary or automobile sources. Once leaded gasoline was banned and the current unleaded version put in place, the blood lead levels of people in the United States dropped by nearly fifty percent in a very short time. It was because of these amendments that the Clean Air Act has stayed as one of the most instrumental pieces of environmental legislation and continues to keep the air quality in the nation from deteriorating.