The concentration of carbon in the atmosphere has been increasingsteadily over the last several decades. The intense industrializationin the developed countries increased the emission of gases into theatmosphere. The problem triggered the United Nations (UN) to raisethe alarm. The UN has held numerous conventions to generate rules forcurbing the generation of toxic gases. Individual countries have alsoenacted localized legislations for guiding the correct disposal ofwaste, as well as, controlling the use of non-renewable sources ofenergy. The United States is one the countries with many industries.Every year, thousands of citizens succumb to diseases caused bycontaminated air. The government, through the EnvironmentalProtection Agency, has been enforcing the Clean Air Act. Despite thehitches in the implementation and enforcement, the legislation hasbeen an instrumental tool for maintaining air quality and easing theburden on healthcare.
Overview of the Act
is one of the most influential federal laws in thecountry. Professionals also consider it as one of the mostcomprehensive in the world (Williams, 2016). Environmental ProtectionAgency (EPA) is responsible for enforcing. The Congress passed theAir Pollution Control Act, in 1956, to manage pollution. The policyenabled the government efforts to get funds, from the Treasury, forextending its activities to all the states (Williams, 2016). Theamendment of the Act in 1963 led to the modification of the publichealth department to allow research, control and monitoring of airpollution. In 1967, the Congress amended the Air Quality Act to giveroom for the federal government to carry out investigations onsuspected parties that had not adopted the provisions of the 1956decree.
Furthermore, the need to include all forms of pollutants in the lawtriggered the government to adjust the regulation in 1970. Themodification extended the mandate from the federal government to thestate authorities (Williams, 2016). The policy targets both mobileand stationary agents of pollution. In the same year, the federalgovernment established the Environmental Protection Agency to providea hierarchical control, monitoring, setting standards, and enforcingthe activities. In 1990, the Act was revamped to address the problemsposed by acidic rain, the depletion of the ozone layer, and emissionof toxic elements (Williams, 2016). It also allowed common citizensto file suits regarding any activity resulting in air pollution.
Achievements of the Clean Air Act
In the few decades that the Act has been operational, the country hasreaped various benefits. All the states have achieved the clean airstandards. Most of them have reduced the four main pollutantsincluding carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and leadoxide (O’Kane et al., 2016). The states with the highest levels ofparticulates have shown a significant reduction. In 1970, somestates, including Los Angeles, exhibited one-hour ozone standard forclose to 175 days annually (O’Kane et al., 2016). After theimplementation and several modifications of the Act, the regions withthe highest record do not exceed one-hour standard every year. Also,the maximum ozone concentration record by the EnvironmentalProtection Agency is only two-thirds of what was pertinent in 1970.
In addition, the Act has resulted in numerous financial benefits forboth the state and the federal government. A report released by theOffice of the Management and Budget indicated that, in 2002, the EPAspent $26 billion in enforcement activities (O’Kane et al., 2016).The benefits that accrued from the Agency’s efforts amounted to$193 billion. EPA estimates that by 2020, the health benefitsaccruing to the purification of air will amount to $20 trillion(O’Kane et al., 2016). The desirable financial returns will be aresult of reduced premature deaths from respiratory diseases.
Challenges of the Act
According to Williams (2016), the implementation of Clean Air Act hasbeen met with political, ethical and social criticism. First, theimplementation of the policy has not been uniform in all the states.The social problem in its enforcement results in the presence ofpollutants in some areas that emanate from other regions. The publiccries foul over the poor quality of Air that is not necessarily aresult of their actions (Williams, 2016). Secondly, all individualshave the responsibility of curbing pollution. According to O’Kaneet al. (2016), it is unethical for manufacturers to release toxicgasses into the environment without making efforts to reduce it.However, the EPA cannot shut down all the industries usingnon-renewable sources of energy, although they contribute to poor airquality. In addition, George Bush issued a statement to propose themerger of public health welfare and public health. Hisadministration sought to harmonize the air standards made by the twobodies. His statement was followed by angry protest fromenvironmental champions. The senior officials of the EPA alsothreatened to resign if the government implemented the move (O’Kaneet al., 2016).
The Clean Air Legislation has tried to solve the challenges in aprocess that brings all the stakeholders on board. William (2016)articulates that the EPA has been consistent in the enforcement ofthe law. Although the country cannot achieve uniform carbonconcentration due to the difference in the number of industries, theAct has reduced the discrepancies in air quality. Secondly, theindustries have not fully adopted efficient production methods. TheAct continues to give EPA the mandate to monitor the gradualreduction in emissions (O’Kane et al., 2016). The establishmentsusing renewable energy are increasing gradually. To avoid an economiccrisis, EPA cannot close down all the late adopters of technology. Itcan only introduce reasonable timelines. The political wrangleexperienced after Bush’s proposal was settled by the after the actadopted the recommendations of the Clean Air Scientific AdvisoryCommittee.
Despite the great strides made by the policy in ensuring airquality, it is notable that the rate of respiratory diseases in thecountry is still high. The disease burden continues to plague thecitizens after inhaling intoxicated air. CAA should tighten its gripon the manufacturers who have not ratified the provisions of thelegislation. According to Williams (2016), some manufacturers wouldnot adopt a new technology that leads less air pollution withoutbeing compelled to do so. In addition, since there is a considerablecapital involved in migrating from the conventional productionmethods to more efficient ones, a significant number of thestakeholders will be reluctant. To avoid further depletion of theozone, EPA should reduce the timelines for compliance with theregulation.
In conclusion, the Clean Air Act has been instrumental in improvingthe quality of air in the United States. The benefits associated withclean air surpass the cost of enforcement. Critics believe that theAct has not been efficient in creating uniform air purification inall the states. It is, therefore, challenging to achieve a uniformconcentration of carbon. The positive trend of air quality can beaccelerated if EPA intensifies the compliance enforcement on rebelsand slow to adopt companies.
O’Kane, S. R., Perlstadt, H., Reardon, J. Z., Rowe, A., Stein, J.T., Towns, C. L. W., & Wimmer, H. P. (2016). requires EPA to adopt a rule that truly protects people in downwindstates. American Lung Association.
Williams, B. (2016). Sixty years since the 1956 Clean Air Act: Are wereally doing enough to reduce air pollution? The InternationalNetwork of Environmental Forensics Bulletin, 1.