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One of the biggest issues facing the World is the effects of climate change. Individual countries response to this threat have differed. Some have combined forces to combat address climate change such as the paris agreement while others have set individual standards.
However, there are some countries that deny a change is occuring to our climate and have rolled back environmentally friendly policies in attempt to promote industry within their respective countries. Unfortunately, the United States is a member of these countries under the Donald Trump Administration. How we react to climate change or lack thereof will define our generation for years to come and effect millions of lives of the future generation. The Clean Air Act has been a monumental policy implemented by the United States to address the biggest problems within our environment. However, has the policy been properly implemented at the State and Federal levels? To define a problem, it is crucial to understand the intricacies of it.
So what exactly is the Clean Air Act? The Clean Air Act is a federal law that regulates air emissions from stationary and mobile sources. Examples of a stationary source is a factory or a source of pollution from anything that isn’t moving. While a mobile source sounds exactly how it is, a source of pollution that moves. This act requires state and federal government to cooperate and improve air quality. The Epa is responsible for identifying air pollutants and setting maximum exposure levels called the National Ambient Air Quality Standards that must be met by every state. This is to protect public health and public welfare and to regulate emissions of hazardous air pollutants. What are the origins of the act? The 1955 Air Pollution Control Act was the first U.
S federal legislation that pertained to air pollution; it also provided funds for federal government research of air pollution. This act was essentially an intro to what the clean air act would become. The first federal legislation to actually pertain to “controlling” air pollution was the Clean Air Act of 1963.
The 1963 act accomplished this by establishing a federal program within the U.S. Public Health Service and authorizing research into techniques for monitoring and controlling air pollution. As there have been more discoveries in humans effect on climate change, there has also been amendments to this policy.
The first significant Amendment was issued in 1970. This coincided with the introduction of the Environmental Protection Agency who is responsible for the enforcement of the act. EPA is responsible for identifying air pollutants and setting maximum exposure levels for the pollutants that it determines endanger public health.The amendment authorized the establishment of National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). It also established requirements for State Implementation Plans to achieve these Standards as well as more enforcement given to the EPA such as civil or criminal action taken against any industry that does not fall into line. The next and most influential amendment to the Clean Air Act came in 1990. This expanded the authority given to the epa even further as well as established permit program requirements for industries with high pollutants.
This amendment was the first considerable investment to the dangers of climate change instead of just pollution. As previously mentioned, each individual state must submit a plan that adheres to the EPA’s requirements and the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. However, what is the exact process of policy enforcement and regulation? Under the Clean Air Act, states have primary responsibility for meeting the NAAQS within their own borders. States have flexibility to determine how to implement programs to meet the federal standards, but they are also largely responsible for funding their own clear air programs. Enforcement of these standards requires the EPA to Follow a Three-Step Process to Approve State implementation plans. The first step is that the States must submit an ‘assurance’ within their program. This assurance is confirmation that each state will implement the adequate amount of resources and funding to their individual programs. The second step is that the state’s assurance must comply with the Epa’s NAAQS regulation.
The third and final step is that the EPA must make an independent determination that the state’s resources will be adequate. If it is found the state is not implementing their program, sanctions can be brought against them. If a state does not have the necessary amount of resources, the federal government will intervene to help. The problem with the Clean Air act is that these processes are easier said than done in the fact that in some cases the epa will overlook these steps and allow states to get away with skipping one of these steps. This isn’t actually enforced, it is impermissible. Many states plans to not meet these standards but are approved anyway.This only works if the epa is actually dedicated to enforcement of these rules. An example of a state getting away without a proper implementation plan is texas.
Since 2005, Texas has cut finding for air quality and assessment over seventy percent; expenses per permit dropped over forty percent;the number of permits reviewed per staff member has doubled. Meanwhile, states like Texas struggle with poor air quality. This policies put forward in Texas’ State Implementation plan completely goes against the assurances that each state must adhere to by the EPA. This requirement has garnered little attention in the past three decades. It seems to be largely ignored by states and by EPA in the state implementation plan (“SIP”) approval and enforcement process, and it has rarely been the subject of litigation by industry or environmental groups.
But given the massive funding cuts facing many state clean air programs, renewedWhat is the influence of interest groups on this act if any? According to the article, “PARTIES, POLITICS, AND REGULATION: EVIDENCE FROM CLEAN AIR ACT ENFORCEMENT,” there seems to be a difference between enforcement at the local level depending on what party represents that state. A state with more democratic representation coincides with more regulatory practices within that state. The opposite can be said in red states where republicans seem to be more lenient with these regulatory practices.
The article explains that there is a correlation between party and voting on this subject. Another important question raised in this article and also goes to explain why the EPA lets some states get away with violating the NAAQS is based on epa funding. Enforcement by the EPA can also ignite adverse public reaction in the media. For example, Non-governmental agencies can throw a fit when regulations are not met.
Adversely, industries in some financial markets can suffer severely from too much regulation. As a result, Clean Air Act inspection rates could impact the profit of local businesses. Politically speaking, The EPA wants to support politicians who run on policies that fund research and development of the EPA. By implementing regulations they could adhere to some congressman while not regulating in some states will adhere to other congressman depending on the state. This bargain raises the Congressman’s incentive for a positive vote by raising the price of reversion to a status quo budget (and EPA-preferred inspection rates) in the event that the EPA budget proposal is defeated.
The biggest issue facing the policies that preserve the environment is how it is framed. It is implied that this topic is a political issue when in reality it is a social issue that has economic ramifications. If we stop thinking of this subject purely economically, perhaps we can address the actual problem. However, in a capitalist system that the United States uses, it may be impossible to pass sustained policies without a pure consensus on the issue. What are some policy alternatives to the Clean Air Act to reduce emissions? Instead of states meeting certain standards and regulations, a carbon tax could be implemented. Carbon taxes aim to drive down greenhouse gas emissions by placing a tax on either fossil fuel products or emissions.
A carbon tax is actually being implemented at the local level by British Columbia. Many democrats like to cite the British Columbia model of a carbon tax in legislature that involves a carbon tax. Even the conservatives like the idea because revenue gained from the carbon taxes were considered revenue neutral. This means that the revenue gained by the carbon tax had to go towards reducing taxes in other places. However, the biggest issue in implementing this into the American economy is geography. The climate in British Columbia is much harsher and citizens there do believe that climate change has an immediate impact on them. According to a New York Times study of americans view on climate change, almost sixty percent of Americans believe in climate change. However, an even a bigger majority believes that global warming won’t have an effect on them personally.
Another reason why this kind of system could not be implemented in the USA is because of our reliance of coal energy. Coal generates no electricity in BC, it provides the majority of electric power in twenty-one states and is the largest single source of power in half the states. With all of that being said, it would be incredibly difficult to pass any legislation that involves a carbon tax.
However, another more realistic alternative is the Cap-and-trade system. This system issue a set number of emissions, or “allowances” each year. The Cap-and trade system is a market based system in which places a limit on the amount of carbon emissions industries can produce and establishes a market for the buying and selling of emissions permits. Currently, the cap and trade system is being used effectively in the European Union as well as within the state implementation program by California. It has actually been used effectively in parts of the 1990 clean air amendment. The cap-and-trade policy is only implemented within the EPA under must be “criteria pollutants,” or pollutants for which the EPA has established National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). There are more parts of the Cap-and-trade that could be implemented to all parts of the Clean Air Act.
However, I believe the best alternative to the clean air act isn’t an alternative at all. Instead of finding a replacement, we should be enforcing policies already in place by the clean air act. This includes properly funding each state’s implementation plan as well as enforcing the NAAQS the EPA already has in place. Within the article by Jessica Ranucci, “Reviving the Clean Air Act’s Requirement That States Adequately Fund and Staff Clean Air Programs,” Ranucci provides five ways in which an improved scheme will place incentives on each of these actors to adequately fund clean air programs. I believe Ranucci’s steps is an excellent example of a way to fix the regulation problem the Clean Air Act currently has.
The first step is that there should be an overhaul of the State implementation plan in the form of a more robust approval system that will require state environmental agencies to provide a much more detailed projection of what funds will be required by the state to carry out the programs in their plans. This first step doesn’t solve the problem, but lays the groundwork for the following steps. Second, by increasing the transparency of each state’s submission plan can serve as an educational tool that legislatures and even the regular concerned citizen can reference. The details included in the submission would include what resources the state believes are required to maintain air quality standards and anything they need from the federal government. The third step would include transparency in the submission by each state’s plan would increase the political accountability of policy leaders in the sense that no shady business will be tolerated by the states as well as the EPA.
The Fourth solution is a result of the third step in the fact that if the state does not propose a plan that coincides with the epa’s regulations by properly funding the program, they will be held accountable. THe transparency listed above will force the EPA to take action to punish that state. The transparency provided by SIP approval will implicate the state legislature as the responsible persons. Finally, the mere prospect of the federal government taking over a state’s clean air programs through a Federal Implementation plan may prompt even the most anti-federal agitators to fund programs adequately.
What is the current outlook from the President on this issue? Unfortunately, Trump has rolled back progress made by Obama and previous presidents. This Includes pulling out of paris agreement as well as rolling back many clean air initiatives. Clean air initiatives include the clean power plan which is almost an extension of the Clean Air Act was originally designed to adhere to the paris agreement that was to limit the emissions from power plants. Not only is the clean power plan being rolled back, but many other initiatives that involve investment in clean energy are being rolled back as well.
Donald Trump even appointed Scott Pruitt, a climate change denier, as the EPA head. He will inevitably roll back obama policies as well as policies even before him. Trump and Pruitt have gone as far as even threatening to dismantle the EPA itself. The ramifications of such an act will have detrimental effects on the Clean Air Act and its future.This is being framed as a political issue, however, it is an issue that can lead to catastrophe if we don’t make significant progress soon. The conclusions made within this article explains that the proper alternative to the clean air act is not an alternative at all, but an expansion of the act. Prior amendments have given more enforcement power to the Environmental Protection Agency to enforce the standards they have perceived as a threat to air pollution.
However, these policies have not been enforced properly by the federal government. Unfortunately, this change in enforcement strategies in futile if the federal government lacks the drive to actually implement any environmentally regulated policies.