The Clean Air Act (CAA)


The CAA is a federal government law that regulates the emission of pollutant air from mobile and stationary sources. This law was first passed and enacted in 1963 by the federal government, but it was amended in 1970 to add important and major regulations that defined air pollution control mechanisms and measures for the country (Ross, Chmiel, & Ferkol, 2012). The evolution of Clean Air Act began in 1955 when the federal government enacted the Air Pollution Control Act of 1955 as the first legislation involving air pollution control. This act funded research for sources and scope of the air pollution in the country. The (AQA) Air Quality Act of 1967 was enacted to authorize enforcement of procedures for mitigating the air pollution problems between states.

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Why the law was enacted

The CAA act of 1970 became the first legislation by the federal government that outlined its role in protecting environmental air from pollution (Bento & Land, 2015). It defines the role of the EPA in protecting and improving the quality of the air in the country.  Since then, the law has been amended severally to include other regulations following new research and changes in the environmental protection programs by the federal government. The latest amendments were done in 1977 and 1990. The law mandates the environmental protection agency EPA to establish (NAAQS) National Ambient Air Quality Standards to prevent the release of hazardous pollutant gases as well as protect the public welfare and public health (Ross, Chmiel, & Ferkol, 2012).  The CAA divides the country into air quality regions and sets goals for the concentration of the air pollutants in the in the ambient air (Ross, Chmiel, & Ferkol, 2012).  The act establishes a technology-based emission control and sets forth allowable limits for discharging certain pollutants.

Lawsuit related to CAA

In 2000, the Supreme Court had to settle on a case between the Deke Energy Company and the EPA. The Duke Energy, which operates 30 coal-fired electric generating units at eight plants north and south California, was involved in a serious legal battle with the EPA for what EPA cited as mindless action by the Duke Energy to invest in actions that were not PSD permitted (Marten Law, 2007).  According to EPA, the Duke Energy had exceeded the annual allowable emissions. However, Duke Energy counteracted the accusations arguing it had not breached the law since it observed the NSPS provisions of the CAA. The Duke Energy Corporation won the case after a ruling by the district court and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

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Controversies over the Clean Air Act

The execution of the CAA has been sparkled with controversies between the interplay of the various bodies involved in the environmental pollution protection. The EPA, under the CAA, is mandated to conduct research and propose the best mechanism and affirmative actions that would free the nations from the dangers of air pollution (Yeatman, 2014). Since its establishment, the EPA has served to provide environmental pollution regulation recommendations that protect the health of the people from the effects of pollution. Under the CAA, the EPA has the power and authority to execute any actions that will reduce global warming emissions that have threatened the population health among other effects. The major controversy is who between the Congress and EPA has the mandate over environmental protection. Several times, the Congress has demeaned and undermined efforts by the EPA thereby creating the controversy of who has the mandate in environmental protection.

In 2007, after a through finding by the EPA about the health outcomes of the global emissions, EPA set standards to limit global warming emissions (Yeatman, 2014). Unfortunately, Polluters through their allies in Congress used every mean available to block EPA from implementing the law that would see a massive reduction in global warming emissions.  Members from both houses, Senate and the House of Representative vowed to introduce legislation that would block, delay or abort the agency’s effort to reduce global warming emissions under the provisions of CAA.  The battle between the EPA and the Congress raises a controversy of who has the obligation to control and protect environmental from pollution.  Constitutionally, the EPA has the mandate to protect the environment from any forms of pollution, and it is allowed to make any environmental protection recommendations based on a thorough scientific evaluation and analyses. In 2011, UCS urged the Congress to support any efforts by the EPA to protect the environment from any forms of air pollution that have scientifically has shown to be a threat to the public health.

In 2014, there was a controversy over whether the CAA has the power to authorize the proposed Clean Power Plan by the EPA (Yeatman, 2014).  The EAP proposed climate rules for the power plants based on the provisions of the CAA. CAA provisions authorize the EPA to formulate regulations for any air pollutants from any source. These regulations are important in that they guide the nation in formulating standards of performance from the sources in question.  However, as originally enacted in 1970, the section 111 (d) of CAA added an exclusion that prohibited the EPA from prescribing any regulations for the hazardous pollutants contained in section 112 of the same Act to avoid duplication of regulations. Following the 1990 amendments, the power of what EPA can or cannot took a mixed version (Yeatman, 2015). The House of Representative and the Senate adopted a different version of the law that have since then raised controversies over the actions and duties of the EPA.  The house of representative adopted a bill that changed the nature and mandate of CCA in the section 112 exclusion.  Before the amendment, the exclusion from the section 111 (d) applied to all hazardous air pollutants regulated under section 112, but after amendment, the exclusion applied only to source categories in section 112 as opposed to section pollutants. The Senate, on the other hand, left the pre-1990 Act, section 112, unchanged (Yeatman, 2014). It maintained a prohibition on EPA to issue regulations for the hazardous pollutants in section 112.

CAA and the Economy

The CAA has yielded significant results in the economy. The expenditure on health has continued to decline. The fewer premature deaths and occasional illness mean that Americans life expectancy increases because of better quality life (Bento & Land, 2015). Fewer school absenteeism increases the labor production to fill the country’s labor force demand.  As suggested by several peer-reviewed research studies, the CCA has been a vital economic investment for Americans and America. Since its enactment in 1970, the country has experienced economic growth courtesy of cleaner air. The act has resulted in mushrooming and creation of numerous market opportunities that have increased innovation in the use of cleaner technologies (Bento & Lang, 2015).  Today, America leads the world in the creation of jobs solely from the cleaner energy industries.

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CAA and its impact on the Environment

The CAA is one of the comprehensive air quality control acts for the America and even in the global scale designed to control air pollution on a national level through interstates relations. The CAA has played a big role in the protecting the environment from industrial and mobile pollution. Since its enactment, America has achieved numerous benefits as far as environmental protection is concerned (Rabl, Holland, & Spadaro, 2014).  EPA has managed to control the emission of global warming gases for the last forty years from industries and mobile sources such as transportation industries. In 2015, the EPA developed and finalized the new set of rules that would help to reduce carbon emission from the power plants.  The enactment of the clean power plan has helped to reduce largely the global warming emissions in all the 52 states (Rabl, Holland, & Spadaro, 2014). An analysis of global warming emission on August 2015 showed that different States had made milestone development in scaling down emission of pollutant gases.

How I have been affected by CAA

The objectives of the CAA have not yet been realized but the law has brought many changes in our lives. The act demands that the industries adopt clean air technology to reduce the emissions of pollutant gases in the air. The adoption of green technologies by industries to comply with EPA requirement has led to innovations in the green technology industries that have created jobs for many people I being one of those working in green technologies. As a way of reducing pollution, I want to stop using petroleum vehicles and buy an electric that will have zero emissions.

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  1. Bento, A., Freedman, M., & Lang, C. (2015). Who benefits from environmental regulation? evidence from the clean air act amendments. Review of Economics and Statistics, 97(3), 610-622.
  2. Marten Law. (2007).Supreme Court Resolves Clean Air Act Controversy Over Major Facility Modification Rules | Marten Law. (2007). Retrieved 20 March 2017, from
  3. Rabl, A., Holland, M., & Spadaro, J. V. (2014). How much is clean air worth?: calculating the benefits of pollution control. Cambridge University Press.
  4. Ross, K., Chmiel, J. F., & Ferkol, T. (2012). The impact of the Clean Air Act. The Journal of pediatrics, 161(5), 781.
  5. Yeatman, W. (2014). Primer: The Ongoing Controversy over Whether Clean Air Act §111(d) Authorizes EPA’s Clean Power Plan.
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