Commemorating 40 Years of One of Our Nation's Most Successful and Protective Laws

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Liz Judge,
(202) 667-4500, ext. 237

Commemorating 40 Years of One of Our Nation's Most Successful and Protective Laws

Air in the U.S. is much cleaner and safer, but there is still a long way for the Clean Air Act and the EPA to go

WASHINGTON - 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:

  • Bringing the nation’s biggest polluters under long-delayed control:
    In 2006, a federal court rejected a Bush administration rule that would
    have sabotaged a key provision of the Clean Air Act, the New Source
    Review program, which requires power plants, refineries, and other major
    polluters to install up-to-date pollution controls when they opt for
    multimillion-dollar renovations or expansions. Earthjustice represented
    six groups in the case. The victory restored a key provision of the
    Clean Air Act by overturning the Bush administration loophole that would
    have allowed thousands of aging power plants and other industrial
    facilities to emit more air pollution, threatening the health of
    millions of Americans.
  • Protecting the public from dangerous global warming pollution:
    In the 2007 Supreme Court case, Massachusetts v. Environmental
    Protection Agency, Earthjustice attorneys helped a coalition of state
    governments and conservation groups in overturning the EPA’s refusal to
    limit greenhouse emissions to fight global warming. It was the first
    Supreme Court case to ever address the issue of climate change, and this
    landmark decision paved the way for a number of EPA policies to reverse
    warming, including the historic clean cars rule of May 2009 limiting
    the greenhouse gas emissions and improving fuel economy of cars and
    light trucks.
  • Protecting the public from dangerous mercury pollution:
    After a decade of hard-fought Earthjustice litigation to get the EPA to
    comply with the Clean Air Act’s air toxics requirements, in August the
    EPA finalized new standards to reduce mercury pollution from cement
    kilns with new regulations. The EPA was under a settlement agreement to
    finalize the rule by August 6, 2010, after environmental groups,
    represented by Earthjustice, won a challenge in federal court to the
    agency’s previously weak emission standard. The new standard will result
    in significant pollution reductions of mercury, fine particle
    pollution, hydrochloric acid, and total hydrocarbons from the cement
    manufacturing industry. The EPA estimates that cutting air pollution
    from cement kilns could result in up to 2,500 premature deaths avoided
    each year. The EPA also estimates benefits from cutting this air
    pollution of up to $18 billion annually, starting in 2013 when the rule
    takes effect.
  • Protecting the public from air toxics: Working
    with a broad coalition of public health groups, environmental groups,
    and states, Earthjustice successfully stopped the Bush administration’s
    attempt to exempt coal-fired and oil-fired power plants from controlling
    their emissions of mercury and other air toxics. Since then,
    Earthjustice has partnered with many of the same groups to force the EPA
    to set the kind of protective standards for these plants that the Clean
    Air Act requires. Thanks to this work, the EPA is now under a
    court-ordered deadline to adopt emissions limits for power plants’ toxic
    air pollution by November 2011. For the first time, all power
    plants—even existing plants that have avoided cleanup requirements for
    decades—will have to significantly reduce their pollution. This victory
    turns the tide of two decades of delay and gets America back on track
    with the regulation of dangerous pollutants known to cause brain damage
    and birth defects.
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Earthjustice is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth, and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment. We bring about far-reaching change by enforcing and strengthening environmental laws on behalf of hundreds of organizations, coalitions and communities.

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