The Clean Air Act
The environment is a vital essence of life in the planet, which needs to be protected against damage from uncontrolled human activities. In an attempt to prevent further degradation to the environment, governments enact and enforce policies and legislations to ensure environmental sustainability. One such legislation is the Clean Air Act, which contains details for controlling air pollution in the United States. The Act passed into law in 1963 following research on maintaining air quality and the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA, 2017) oversees its adherence and accomplishment. The act addresses air pollution issues by monitoring emissions deemed to have the potential to threaten public health. In light of these, the Clean Air Act underwent rigorous formation processes and amendments to contain the necessary air pollution components and specifics.
The major provision of the Act involved placing EPA as the main enforcement body for air quality control, to spearhead research and offer financing to air pollution-control efforts propagated by the local and state governments. The provision was put in place in 1970 after recognizing the need to protect the environment, have one body coordinating the activities geared towards that goal, and evaluate their performance. Furthermore, in the same year, the auto-mobile industry’s emission was required to reduce by ninety percent.
The act implemented programs to deal with pollution sources including; the National Ambient Air Quality Standards(NAAQS), National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants(NESHAPs), New Source Performance Standards(NSPS) and State Implementation Plans(SIPs). In 1990, the Act was amended to include provision for control of acid rain in the environment as well as issuing operating permits to static air pollution sources such as industries. At the same time the enforcement ability of EPA was bumped up, the defining characteristics of the NAAQS program modified and expanded and the number of toxic pollutants under the NESHAPs program expanded to 189 items. The research programs were further implemented to report on the value of the act to the society including the economic value realized from the various provisions.
The Clean Act was enacted to reduce risk to public health and through its enforcement; the health benefits accrued over the last 20 years are estimated at 22.2 trillion dollars (Lockwood, 2012). The cost of implementing the Act in 2010 was valued at 50 million while the benefits gained were valued at 1.3 trillion in regards to public health and the environment (EPA,2017). By reducing the amount of particulate matter in the air, the rates of premature deaths, airway infections, heart disease and asthma have reduced significantly. Accordingly, the healthy population is more productive which increases the gross domestic product (GDP). Job opportunities have also come up with the regulation of industrial activities in compliance with the Clean Air Act. For example, in 2008 the environmental technologies industry was supporting 1.7 direct jobs (EPA, 2017). Therefore, as shown in the monitoring and evaluation results from EPA, the benefits of enacting the Clean Air Act far outweigh, by a huge margin, the cost of implementing the policies across the country.
The implementation of the Clean Air Act has greatly improved the air quality in the environment and aspects such as visibility by reducing emissions and particulate matter. In many cities across the country, which carry out environmental impact surveys have reported clearer skyline with reduced smog from industries and motor vehicle emissions. Notably, there has been dramatic reduction in air pollutants with the ozone levels having reduced by 25% since 1980, whereas emissions containing mercury have reduced by 45% since 1990 (Save on Energy, 2018). Consequently, the Clean Air Act has had tremendous social, economic and environmental benefits, geared towards sustainable development.
Clean Air Act Overview | US EPA. (2017, April 26). Retrieved from Environmental Protection Agency website: https://www.epa.gov/clean-air-act-overview
Lockwood, A. H. (2012, September 7). How the Clean Air Act Has Saved $22 Trillion in Health-Care Costs. The Atlantic [Washington DC].
Save On Energy. (2018). Impact of the Clean Air Act | SaveOnEnergy.com. Retrieved May 19, 2018, from https://www.saveonenergy.com/what-if-there-was-no-clean-air-act/