Clean Air Act and Amendments

The Act establishes the nation's air regulatory priorities and a basic regulatory framework. Although it has been amended several times over the years, the CAAA significantly expanded the scope and detail of the Act. For the first time, the Act regulates acid rain and calls for phasing out the production of ozone-depleting chemicals (ODCs). Further, the CAAA strengthens emissions standards for motor vehicles and stationary sources of air toxins and promotes cleaner burning transportation fuels. The CAAA also provides a complex series of technological requirements for protecting air in areas exceeding ambient air quality standards.

In a major change from earlier legislation, the CAAA allows states and emissions sources to search for best and most cost-effective emissions control options for their specific circumstances, including the use of clean fuels and alternative control measures such as emissions trading. This flexibility is intended to provide sources with opportunities to minimize compliance costs, and thereby encourage full and perhaps early compliance with environmental standards.

Finally, the CAAA lays out ambitious timelines for achieving these goals. The CAAA is broken into eight titles, each addressing a major air pollution issue:

Title I — Air Quality and Emissions Limits

• Sets the criteria for establishing the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS)

• Sets deadlines for attainment of the NAAQS

• Provides a means of determining attainment with the NAAQS

• Requires state actions to meet and maintain, with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) oversight, the NAAQS

• Establishes a program to provide Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) in areas already meeting the NAAQS

• Contains a mechanism for the EPA to set nationwide New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for selected industrial sources

Title II — Mobile Sources

• Establishes emissions standards for new vehicles

• Establishes programs to promote the use of alternative fuels

• Establishes gasoline quality standards to be used in areas with NAAQS attainment problems

Title III — Hazardous Air Pollutants

• Calls for reductions in toxic pollutants from all significant industrial sources through federally set technology standards known as Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT)

• Requires contingency plans for possible accidental release of certain air pollutants

Title IV — Acid (Rain) Deposition Control

• Mandates phased reductions of electric utility SO2 and NOX emissions nationwide

• Establishes a national emissions allowance trading program for SO2

• Establishes a federal operating permit program to be implemented by states with federal oversight

Title VI — Stratospheric Ozone Protection

• Identifies stratospheric ozone depleting chemicals, such as CFCs and halons

• Establishes a schedule for the phase-out of the manufacture and import of these materials

Title VII — Enforcement

• Strengthens legal basis for enforcement of the Act

• Requires enhanced monitoring

• Establishes criminal and civil penalties

Title VIII — Miscellaneous

The CAAA requires each state to develop a State

Implementation Plan, or SIP, that lays out its plan for implementing the CAAA requirements. SIP development involves a lengthy planning process that results in a blue print for reaching the air quality standards. It establishes milestones that can monitor a state's progress toward or compliance with the Act. If a state does not meet its attainment or progress requirements, the EPA can intercede and impose sanctions, such as reducing or eliminating federal highway funds or requiring even more stringent emissions requirements for new source construction or modification. Furthermore, if a state fails to develop a SIP that meets the requirements of the law, the EPA is required to intercede by developing its own federal implementation plan (FIP).

A FIP would include all the provisions that would be required in a SIP; however, the EPA would have the responsibility of developing the necessary regulations and enforcing the FIP in the state once it is final. Three air districts in California, for example, have had FIPs proposed to address the failure of the air districts to fulfill their obligations.

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