At this time of year, when many of us will be traveling to visit families--either by plane, train or automobile, it is worth reflecting upon one of the United States’ seminal pieces of environmental legislation, the Clean Air Act.
The Clean Air Act, established in 1970, is celebrating its 41st anniversary this December 17.
In 1970, California’s population was only 20 million. During that same decade, in 1975, the Los Angeles basin recorded 118 Stage 1 smog alerts. By 1980 the state’s population had reached 24 million and 17 million automobiles racked up over 155 billion vehicle miles (!) By 2010 our population reached over 38 million, a doubling from 1970, but many air quality statistics demonstrate some remarkable improvements: the number of smog alerts in the South Coast has fallen by over 95% and some years have seen zero such incidents; emissions of nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons from cars are down 200,000 tons from the peak in 1990 despite vehicle miles growing to 280 billion miles annually.