Purpose

The goal of the Clean Air Act (CAA) (§§101-618, 42 USC §§7401-7671q) is to prevent and control the discharge of pollutants into the air which can harm human health and natural resources. It regulates pollution by establishing ambient air quality standards at which pollutants can be safely tolerated. The act also regulates emission sources through a system of limitations on specified pollutants and a permit program for major sources.

The current act is comprised of several amendments that address air pollution problems over the last twenty years. Most of the major provisions were developed in the 1970, 1977, and 1990 amendments (CAA [1990], CAA §§101-618, 42 USC §§7401-7671q). The central part of the act is its provisions for National Ambient Air Quality Standards for criteria pollutants. Other features of the act include standards for areas which meet the ambient air quality standards, attainment areas, and more stringent standards for nonattainment areas. In addition, the act provides for prevention of significant deterioration, air toxics, state implementation plans, permits, and the control of mobile sources.

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