Clean Air Act of 1955

Policy Type Policy
Policy Jurisdiction Federal
Status Passed
Tags Air Quality, JEDI, Public Health

Policy Summary

Like the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act of 1955 (CAA) introduced precedent that continues to inform federal regulatory statute and Just Transition policy. It had major revisions in 1970. 1977, and 1990.

While some of its provisions would be classified as market-based solutions today (such as a cap-and-trade program to limit acid rain), much of the CAA sought to establish protections for air quality, phase out ozone-depleting pollutants, create federal regulatory controls for polluting air emissions founded on health-based standards, and institute deadlines for states to achieve those standards. It also requires preventative measures for depletion of air quality in areas with clean air and mandates controls for 187 hazardous pollutants.

However, one of the most important provisions of the CAA is the ability of affected communities and individuals to pursue “Citizen Suits” against polluting entities. While it has historically been difficult for affected communities to mount a successful campaign against large-scale polluters and any proceeds from resolved cases generally go to the federal government, not affected communities, there are more and more environmental justice communities that are filing cases against large and repeat CAA offenders. There are also environmental law firms willing to represent these communities pro bono.

Because the CAA is an important part of the foundation of environmental policy in the US, we will continue to add additional information as we grow the Policy Exchange. If you have particular experience with the Clean Air Act, please contact us to contribute.

Summary developed by: TCLP staff with materials from Environmental Law Institute and Congressional Research Service.

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