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Clean Air Act

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Definition: The Clean Air Act was first enacted in 1970 and authorized the establishment of federal and state regulations that limit emissions stationary and mobile sources of air pollutants. It was not the first legislation to address air pollution, earlier acts included the Air Polution Control Act of 1955 and the Clean Air Act of 1963. The earlier acts were not as comprehensive as the Clean Air Act of 1970, they only provided funds for research into air pollution and the development of monitoring techniques.

The Clean Air Act of 1970 represented a significant change in the federal goverment's role in air pollution control, granting federal and state authorities the power to limit emissions from industrial and mobile sources of air pollutants. It introduced four regulatory programs:

  • National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS)
  • State Implementation Plans (SIPs)
  • New Source Performance Standards (NSPS)
  • National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAPs)

Significant amendments to the Clean Air Act were made in 1977 and in 1990.

If you're interested in reading the text of the Clean Air Act, you can download a PDF version of the Clean Air Act from the EPA website. There is also a The Plain English Guide to the Clean Air Act that provides a brief introduction to the 1990 Clean Air Act.

Some significant objectives of the act are to:

  • reduce outdoor concentrations of air polutants
  • reduce emissions of toxic air pollutants that cause or could cause serious health problems
  • phase-out the use and production of chemicals that destroy ozone
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