The Clean Air Act

January 1, 1996 | Healthcare Risk, Quality, & Safety Guidance


The Clean Air Act (Public Law 90-148) was passed by Congress in 1970. It has since been amended nine times, increasing in scope and complexity with each addition until it emerged in its current form as one of the most comprehensive—and expensive—pieces of environmental legislation in the world. With the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 (Public Law 101-549) now in place, annual compliance costs nationwide have been estimated to be between $22 and $50 billion. Clearly, industry has not greeted the amended Clean Air Act with enthusiasm. And despite its scope and the costs entailed, environmental activists have not been satisfied with the current form of the Act either.

The basic purpose of the Clean Air Act is to reduce emissions of hazardous substances into the air from stationary sources, such as incinerators, refineries, and manufacturing facilities, and from MOBILE SOURCES, including all types of motor vehicles, airplanes, and railroad engines. Title I of the Clean Air Act, "Air Pollution Prevention and Control," defines the Act's general purpose thusly:

The statement of purpose makes clear two principles that are significant in the structure of the amended Act and its impact on hospitals:

The Clean Air Act, as amended by Congress in 1990, contains seven titles (there are two Title IVs) and 617 sections, plus miscellaneous sections at the end (see Summary of Titles).

To avoid confusion among those who have studied or are used to referring to the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, HRC points out that those Amendments alone contain 11 titles and over 1,000 sections, almost all of which amend the Clean Air Act and are incorporated into it in various places. For example, Title VII of the 1990 Amendments, "Enforcement," actually amends and is incorporated under Title I of the Clean Air Act. There are a few sections of the 1990 Amendments, not likely to have much impact on hospitals, that have not been incorporated into the Act. The correlation between the titles of the Act and the titles of the 1990 Amendments is presented in The Titles of the 1990 Amendments Correlated with the Act.

HRC presents a summary of the Act in this section in outline form, following the structure of the Act with the 1990 Amendments incorporated. HRC's comments are in italics.

TITLE I—AIR POLLUTION PREVENTION AND CONTROL: Title 1 has 3 parts, A through D. (Part B was deleted and replaced by Title VI, "Protection of Stratospheric Ozone.")

Part A: Air Quality and Emission Limitations. *This sweeping section defines a new direction in air pollution regulation in the United States. Believing that the pollutant-by-pollutant system of regulation was too slow, Congress, in the 1990 Amendments, shifted to regulation by source category and technology. Significant changes are contained in §109, establishing primary ambient air quality standards and secondary ambient air quality standards, and in §112, laying the groundwork for regulating hazardous air pollutants by source category and technology. ...

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