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EPA Celebrates 15th Anniversary of Clean Air Act Amendments

Release Date: 11/15/2005
Contact Information:


Contact: John Millett, 202-564-4355 / millett.john@epa.gov


(Washington, D.C.-Nov. 15, 2005) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is celebrating the 15th anniversary of the signing of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, a landmark piece of legislation that has led to significant environmental and public health benefits across the United States.

"The achievements our nation has made under the Clean Air Act Amendments are unparalleled in the world," EPA Acting Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation Bill Wehrum said. "As we celebrate this historic occasion, let us use our past success as the cornerstone for future progress as we continue to bring Americans cleaner air to breathe, clearer skies to see and improved public health for all."

The 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments were signed by President George H. W. Bush on November 15th, 1990 to foster the growth of a strong American economy and industry while improving human health and the environment. To date, the public health benefits of the amendments outweigh the costs by 4 to 1.

One of the highlights of the '90 Amendments was the Acid Rain Program. According to the Office of Management and Budget, the Acid Rain Program has accounted for the largest quantified human health benefits of any federal regulatory program implemented in the last 10 years, with annual benefits exceeding costs by more than 40 to 1.

The Acid Rain Program's cap-and-trade market approach, similar to President Bush's proposed Clear Skies legislation, was responsible for reduction of sulfur dioxide emissions by 5 million tons and nitrogen oxides by 3 million tons from 1990 levels. In addition to substantial health benefits, these reductions have led to a decline in acid deposition and fewer acidic lakes.

Significant progress has also been made in improving the quality of the air in most U.S. cities and communities. Over the last thirty years, total emissions of the six principal air pollutants have decreased by more than 50 percent, while the Gross Domestic Product has increased by more than 185 percent.

Additional accomplishments of the 1990 Clean Act Amendments include:

Millions of people are breathing healthier air thanks to the over 75 percent of areas that now meet the amendments' National Air Quality Standards.
Stricter emissions standards on mobile sources (cars, light/heavy trucks etc.) resulting in significant reductions of hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.
The regulation of 188 toxic air pollutants - toxic air emissions will have been reduced by 1.7 million tons annually since 1990 once the programs are fully implemented.
A phaseout of class I ozone-depleting chemicals.

These are just some of the accomplishments that the Clean Air Act Amendments have made in the last 15 years. For more information, visit: https://www.epa.gov/air/cleanairact