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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

CRS Issue Statement on the Clean Air Act and Air Quality Standards

James E. McCarthy, Coordinator
Specialist in Environmental Policy

Broad questions regarding the effectiveness of economic versus regulatory approaches to controlling air pollution, the role of federal versus state governments in controlling emissions, and the respective role of existing EPA authority versus new legislation are the underlying issues as the 111th Congress considers amendments to the Clean Air Act and conducts oversight of EPA regulatory actions. Specific issues include what role the Clean Air Act will play in the prospective regulation of greenhouse gas emissions; how to control emissions of a wide range of pollutants from electric power plants, many of which operate without state-of-the-art pollution controls; and whether existing standards for ambient air quality need strengthening. 

The clean air debate overlaps to a large extent the debate regarding control of greenhouse gases GHGs). Many of the bills introduced to cap GHG emissions would amend the Clean Air Act. The leading approach—a national cap on emissions, with a trading system for emission allowances— builds on the experience of the Clean Air Act's acid precipitation program. As it considers greenhouse gas legislation, Congress will need to decide not only whether to enact greenhouse gas limits, but, if so, whether legislation will be based on a cap-and-trade system, carbon taxes, emission standards for specific sectors, or some combination of the above, and the degree to which federal controls will preempt state regulations, among many other issues.

Date of Report: January 4, 2010
Number of Pages: 3
Order Number:IS40269
Price: $7.95

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