Today the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) celebrates 40 years of one of the nation’s most successful laws and the cornerstone of clean air in the United States, the Clean Air Act.
The following is a statement by Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen:
"Since the Clean Air Act was passed by Congress and signed into law in 1970, it has become the single most powerful and critical tool for cleaning up our air in the United States and keeping toxic and deadly pollution out of our lungs.
"Over the last 40 years, the Clean Air Act has accomplished great things for our nation, thanks in large part to the vision of the lawmakers in Congress who drafted it. Because of the Clean Air Act, the air we breathe in the United States is much cleaner, safer, and healthier for our lungs than it was some 40 years ago.
"But as we have seen through several administrations, this legislation’s success lies in its enforcement and implementation. The law has not always been followed, and deadlines for stronger air standards have been missed and ignored. Many of our clean air safeguards have been the result of hard-fought battles between polluters and citizens over whether the EPA would protect the American people and our environment.
"For decades, these Clean Air Act victories have brought about improving air standards and stronger requirements for implementing these standards. As a result, many Americans have been allowed to lead longer and healthier lives. EPA analysis found that by 1990, Clean Air Act controls on air pollutants saved 205,000 American lives from premature death, and spared millions from illness. Meanwhile, our economy has grown and businesses have profited, proving that clean air pays.
"More recently, a series of court decisions, many in cases brought by Earthjustice, have put the EPA on track for adopting a host of new and improved air standards that, if the EPA and the Obama administration follow the law and the science, will greatly improve our air quality, keeping more toxic and harmful pollution out of our air and lungs, and beginning the long road to reducing carbon pollution that is driving climate change.
"In the next few years, the Environmental Protection Agency must be vigilant in following the Clean Air Act and using it to tackle some of the most harmful pollutants from the biggest polluters. Tens of thousands of lives and millions of tons of climate pollution are at stake in these rules.
"Among the upcoming standards that the EPA will take on are new rules on ground-level ozone pollution, or smog; fine particle pollution, including soot; and new standards for air pollution from power plants, refineries, oil and gas production facilities, and other industries.
"And yet there is much more that needs to be done under the Clean Air Act. The EPA must eliminate loopholes that allow dozens of industries to evade compliance with pollution limits and spew out dangerous levels of contaminants by claiming that their violations are due to "malfunctions," and the agency must also require all major industries to conduct ongoing monitoring of their emissions so the public and the government can know exactly how much pollution is being emitted into the air.
"Big polluters are already fighting these protections, and some members of Congress would like to serve these powerful special interests by standing in the way of the EPA.
"We thank the EPA and the Obama administration for making important strides to strengthen and follow the Clean Air Act. And we urge the EPA to press on in protecting all Americans and using the Clean Air Act to get dangerous pollutants out of our air."
Recent Earthjustice Victories for Clean Air in America: