Legislative History

Air pollution has been around for a long time. However, it was not researched until the 1950s when a California scientist noticed the smog in his city. He predicted that it was caused by the cars and began to research it (EPA, 2020). Twenty years later, Congress passed the Clean Air Act (CAA). This gave the United States Environmental Protection Agency the authority to regulate pollution in cities (EPA, 2020).

The EPA went on to regulate many facets or the environment and pollution, such as setting air quality standards for the National Ambient Air Quality (NAAQS), creating programs that protect the ozone layer under Title IV of the CAA, and regulating emissions of toxic air pollutants. In 1995, lead gasoline was finally fully prohibited, which ultimately led to a significant decrease in lead levels in the atmosphere.

At a glance, the timeline for the major legislative milestones is as follows:

1950s: Increased air pollution in cities captured scientists’ attention

1970: Congress passes the Clean Air Act and gave the EPA regulatory authority

1995: Lead gasoline was prohibited

2008: Electric vehicle tax credit introduced

While air pollution has been a known issue for around 70 years, there does not seem to have been too many big policies that have caused big changes. Pollution has declined, though, so the policies and regulations in place have helped keep it on a slow but gradual decline.

Something worth noting is that significant changes to the people in charge of organizations like the EPA can cause significant changes to air pollution patterns. EPA enforcement has been more laxed under President Trump’s administration, and the changes can be seen when graphed.

According to the Washington Post, “Last year, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler disbanded the expert academic panel that reviewed and advised the agency on its standards for small-particle air pollution. In its place, the administration has hired consultants with links to the fossil fuel, pharmaceutical and tobacco industries.” (Ingraham, 2019).

While it is important to come up with legislations that can help combat the issue of air pollution, it is also important to ensure that these legislations are upheld and enforced to their full capacity.


History of Reducing Air Pollution from Transportation in the United States. (2020, June 10). Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://www.epa.gov/transportation-air-pollution-and-climate-change/accomplishments-and-success-air-pollution-transportation

Ingraham, C. (2019, October 24). Air pollution is getting worse, and data show more people are dying. Retrieved October 20, 2020, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/10/23/air-pollution-is-getting-worse-data-show-more-people-are-dying/

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