Clean Air Act


ANNCR: The Clean Air Act – On Today's Congressional Moment

The first time Congress dealt with any issue pertaining to unclean air was in 1955. Prior to that, states had passed their own legislation dealing with the problems of impure air… most of it excess smoke from burning fields and clearing forests.

But as industry and our nation grew, more people and more land were exposed to dirty air emissions from industrial smokestacks and automobile exhaust.

By the 1960s, environmental issues had become a public concern, as scientific studies linked air pollution to specific health issues. The Clean Air Act of 1963 marked the beginning of federally funded air quality research programs to deal with increasing amounts of smog. Two years later, it was amended to include cars as a source of pollution. The Clean Air Act of 1970, the year the EPA was established, was even more robust, and subsequent amendments in 1977 and 1990 addressed ozone depletion and acid rain.

Enforcing clean air standards has helped control pollution and reduce health hazards over the years, but the process of improving and amending this Act to keep our air clean is on-going, as the costs to industry must be weighed against the benefits to the environment. The Clean Air Act - one of the most complex and extensive pieces of federal environmental legislation - remains very much a work in progress.

STANDARD CLOSING: This is Lee Hamilton. Congressional decisions impact all our lives. To find out more about how Congress works, or to get involved in your government, visit the Center On Congress website at