The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 is a federal
law that sets limits on how much pollution is
allowed in the air anywhere in the United States.
The goal is to make sure that all Americans have
clean, healthy air to breathe. EPA can fine violators
who break the law and put too much pollution
into the air.
Parts of the Clean Air Act Amendments, called “Titles,” established
permit programs to limit the amount of pollutants
that sources such as factories, industries, and
vehicles can release. These permits are issued
by states or EPA and include information on which
pollutants are being released, how much may be
released, and what steps are being taken to reduce
the pollution. Sources of pollution have to pay
for the permits, and the money from the fees
helps support state air pollution control activities.
In addition, the Clean Air Act Amendments established
a specific program to reduce the pollutants that
cause acid rain—sulfur dioxide and nitrogen
oxides. This program—the Acid Rain Program—uses
allowances to control the amount of pollution
that a source can produce. Each source can decide
if it wants to buy, sell, or save these allowances.
There are stiff penalties, however, for sources
that release more pollutants than their allowances
cover. As of 2001, the Acid Rain Program had
reduced sulfur dioxide emissions by 33 percent
and nitrogen oxide emissions by 27 percent. For
more information, see the Plain
English Guide to the Clean Air Act.