Air quality law

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Air quality law is the area of environmental law governing the emission of air pollutants from human sources into the atmosphere. It may also refer to the regulation of indoor air quality for the protection of human health.

Legislation across jurisdictions[edit]

Numerous pieces of legislation, some referred to as a Clean Air Act, have been enacted, relating to the reduction of airborne contaminants, smog and air pollution in general. Their use by governments, to enforce clean air standards, has contributed to an improvement in human health and longer life spans. Critics argue it has also reduced corporate profits and contributed to outsourcing, while defenders counter that improved environmental air quality has generated more jobs than it has eliminated.

Additionally, air quality legislation has led to widespread use of atmospheric dispersion models, including point source models, roadway air dispersion models and aircraft air pollution models in order to analyze air quality impacts of proposed major actions.


There have been two acts proposed by the Canadian federal government with the name "Clean Air Act". The first, passed in 1970, sought to regulate the release of four specific air pollutants: asbestos, lead, mercury, and vinyl chloride. It has since been replaced by the Canadian Environmental Protection Act in the year 2000.

Former Canadian Environment Minister Rona Ambrose introduced the second Clean Air Act (Bill C-30) in mid-October 2006, containing mostly measures to fight smog pollution and greenhouse gases.[1]

On October 19, 2006, Ambrose revealed details of the plan which would include reducing the 2003 emissions of greenhouse gases by about 45 to 65% for the year 2050. There are plans for regulations on vehicle fuel consumption for 2011 and targets for ozone and smog levels for 2025. The effectiveness of this act has been challenged by the opposition parties, with Jack Layton of the New Democratic Party stating that the act does little to prevent climate change and that more must be done. After threatening to make this into an election issue the Conservative Party agreed to rework the act with the opposition parties.[2]

Bill C-30 did not proceed to second reading.

New Zealand[edit]

New Zealand passed the Clean Air Act in 1972. It was repealed by the Resource Management Act 1991, a significant and wide ranging Act of Parliament.

United Kingdom[edit]

In response to the Great Smog of 1952, the British Parliament introduced the Clean Air Act 1956. This act legislated for zones where smokeless fuels had to be burnt and relocated power stations to rural areas. The Clean Air Act 1968[3] introduced the use of tall chimneys to disperse air pollution for industries burning coal, liquid or gaseous fuels.[4] The Clean Air Act was updated in 1993 and can be reviewed online legislation Clean Air Act 1993. The biggest domestic impact comes from Part III, Smoke Control Areas, which are designated by local authorities and can vary by street in large towns.

United States[edit]

State and local governments have enacted similar legislation, either implementing federal programs or filling in locally important gaps in federal programs.

The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 proposed emissions trading, added provisions for addressing acid rain, ozone depletion, toxic air pollution, and established a national permits program. The amendments once approved also established new auto gasoline reformulation requirements, set Reid vapor pressure (RVP) standards to control evaporative emissions from gasoline and mandated that the new gasoline formulations be sold from May–September in many states.


Studies by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Governmental imposition of clean air standards has contributed to an improvement in human health and longer life spans. The EPA reported that the "1990 Clean Air Act amendments will reach approximately $2 trillion in 2020 while saving 230,000 people from early death in that year alone." The study also reports that in 2010 alone, the reduction of ozone and particulate matter in the atmoshphere prevented more than 160,000 cases of premature mortality, 130,000 heart attacks, 13 million lost work days and 1.7 million asthma attacks.[5]

Several lawsuits raised against power plants for controlling emissions and the EPA for not fulfilling their regulatory duties have cited data on increased respiratory illnesses in the region. Diné CARE sued the EPA for not implementing regulations and penalties towards the Four Corners Generating Station, located on the Navajo Indian Reservation in New Mexico, display that the number one reason for admittance at the Shiprock Indian Hospital are respiratory complications.[6]


Critics, including utility companies and economists, argue it has also sapped corporate profits and contributed to outsourcing. Defenders counter that improved environmental air quality has produced trillions of dollars more in health savings than economic costs, claiming for every $1 spent on regulation $40 are gained.[7][8][9]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Draft of Bill C-30: Canada's Clean Air and Climate Change Act
  2. ^ CTV News article, October 20, 2006
  3. ^ Watership Down author Richard Adams mentions his role in the Clean Air Act 1968
  4. ^ United Kingdom's Clean Air Acts
  5. ^ Enesta Jones (03/01/2011). "EPA Report Underscores Clean Air Act’s Successful Public Health Protections/Landmark law saved 160,000 lives in 2010 alone". Retrieved 22 March 2012. 
  6. ^ Doug Ramsey (March 20, 2012). "Lawsuit Alleges EPA Foot-Dragging on Power Plant Clean-Up". PublicNewsService. Retrieved 22 March 2012. 
  7. ^ The Benefits and Costs of the Clean Air Act: 1990 to 2020, USEPA Office of Air and Radiation, August 2010 p.191
  8. ^ Speech by US EPA Administrator Jackson entitled Remarks on the 40th Anniversary of the Clean Air Act, "...The total benefits of the Clean Air Act amount to more than 40 times the costs of regulation", Sep.14, 2010!OpenDocument
  9. ^ "EPA Estimates Clean Air Act Will Gain $2 Trillion in Health Benefits by 2020". Earth Justice. March 1, 2011. Retrieved 22 March 2012. 

External links[edit]