THE CLEAN AIR ACT

The Clean Air Act has protected the air we breathe for four decades. By curbing air pollution, it is directly responsible for saving many thousands of lives and improving health. The Act has achieved these successes while saving us money and protecting our economy. 

The Clean Air Act’s comprehensive system of pollution control, with a proven track record of success, must now be applied to the grave problem of carbon pollution and global warming. The Act can work immediately by itself or in conjunction with new climate legislation. Now is the time to enforce the Clean Air Act — not gut it — and the Center is working hard to make sure this happens.

OUR CAMPAIGN

The Clean Air Act requires the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate air pollutants in order to protect public health and welfare. In 1999, the International Center for Technology Assessment petitioned to regulate greenhouse gas pollution from automobiles under the Clean Air Act. In 2003, the Center joined a large coalition of groups, states and cities in challenging the Bush administration’s response that CO2 isn’t an “air pollutant” within the broad definition of the Act. In April 2007, the Supreme Court ruled in Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency that CO2 is in fact an “air pollutant,” ordering the EPA to move forward in regulating its emission.

The EPA has taken some initial steps toward curbing greenhouse pollution under the Act. In 2009, the agency issued a formal finding that greenhouse pollution endangers public health and welfare and moved to limit emissions from passenger cars and trucks. The EPA also acknowledged that major new or modified “stationary” sources of greenhouse pollution, like power plants and factories, must obtain permits and control their emissions before beginning construction. However, it narrowed the scope of this requirement considerably under its so-called “tailoring rule,” which initially limits the permitting program to only a few hundred very large sources of greenhouse gases, letting a huge number of smaller — but still significant — sources off the hook. In December 2010, the EPA announced it would finally set industry-wide limits for greenhouse gas pollution from refineries and power plants under the “new source performance standards” of the Clean Air Act.

All of the EPA’s rules are, or will likely be, under legal attack by industry special-interest groups and backward-looking states, so the Center is participating actively in the current litigation to defend the rules that help protect our climate. Thanks in part to our efforts, on December 10, 2010, the court denied an industry attempt to halt implementation of some Clean Air Act rules while the industry case proceeds. As a result, regulation of greenhouse gas pollution from the biggest industrial polluters began on January 2, 2011. Still, the Act is under intense attack by Congress. The Center and more than 300 allies have written to Obama to veto any legislation that would gut the Act — and you can help us save it by becoming a Clean Air Advocate now.

The Center believes that the Obama government can and must do much more to address the serious threat of climate change. To that end, we’ve continued to press for additional, rapid regulation of emissions under the Act. On December 2, 2009, the Center and 350.org took an historic step by petitioning the EPA to set a national pollution cap on greenhouse gases pursuant to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards program of the Clean Air Act. We also joined with allies in petitioning for regulation of greenhouse pollution from ships, airplanes and other “nonroad” mobile emission sources, and in June 2010 our coalition filed a lawsuit challenging the EPA’s unreasonable delay in proposing these regulations. We’re also wielding the Act against offshore oil drilling in the Arctic and particulate air pollution, as well as to protect the nation’s national parks, wildlife refuges and wilderness areas from unhealthy haze pollution.

 

Refinery photo courtesy Flickr Commons/ddatch54