Clean Air Act 

The Clean Air Act of 1963 is a federal law designed to control and reduce air pollution on a national level. It is one of the United State’s earliest and most influential environmental laws. It laid out the most comprehensive air quality laws that the world had seen yet.  

History of U.S. Environmental Law

The United States started passing what can be considered, modern environmental laws to protect human health, and improve and preserve the natural environment, with its first statutory environmental law, the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899. This act was for the purpose of protecting and preserving the country’s water and waterways by placing Congress in control of its rivers and harbors. Within its many sections are provisions that prevent dams and bridges (etc.) from being built that would prevent the waterways from flowing and being accessible, and to prevent refuse being dumped into rivers, to name just a few of the provisions of the nation’s first environmental law.

Many associate President Theodore Roosevelt with the early 20th century conservation movement that stemmed from this time period.

Air Pollution Acts

The Air Pollution Control Act of 1955 was the first U.S. federal legislation that addressed air pollution and provided funds to the government to research air pollution.

The first federal legislation that actually sought to control air pollution is the Clean Air Act of 1963. This statute established a federal program within the U.S. Public Health Service and authorized research of techniques for monitoring and controlling air pollution. This act was amended in 1965 by the Motor Vehicle Air Pollution Control Act that allowed the federal government to set standards for controlling the emission of pollutants that certain automobiles needed to adhere to. The Air Quality Act of 1967 was the second amendment to the Clean Air Act of 1963. This act allowed the federal government to increase its activities for investigating how to enforce interstate pollution transport. Under this act, the government was able to perform far-reaching ambient monitoring studies and stationary source inspections for the first time, as well as, it expanded studies of air pollutant emission inventories, and ambient monitoring and control techniques.

Because of this 1960s legislation and funding to clean up and air prevent pollution, by 1970 all 50 states had air pollution programs. Subsequent amendments that were passed in the 1970s further expanded federal mandate on air pollution to include requiring comprehensive federal and state regulations for industrial (stationary) pollution sources such as factories and refineries, as well to further restrictions for automobiles and other mobile polluting sources.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was established at the end of 1970. Its purpose was to consolidate and streamline important activities such as federal research, monitoring, standard-setting, and enforcement activities, into one agency that strives to ensure environmental protection.  

The United States has continued to address ongoing and new pollution problems with amendments to to the air pollution acts as well as new reforms based on the EPA’s and other recommendations.

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