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A Clean Air Act Primer: Part I (Chapter 1)

March 1992

Citation: 22 ELR 10159

Issue: 3

Author: Theodore L. Garrett and Sonya D. Winner

Editors' Summary: On November 15, 1990, President Bush signed into law the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, the first comprehensive changes to the Act in 13 years. During the intervening months since its enactment, EPA has geared up, streamlined, and commenced its rulemaking processes to accommodate the regulatory burden the new law places on the Agency. As amended by the 1990 amendments, the Clean Air Act instructs EPA to promulgate 27 rules during each of the first two years. However, EPA must do much of its interpretation and rulemaking of the new Act's mandates without the aid of a comprehensive legislative history, because Congress rushed to get the 1990 amendments passed before the end of the 101st Congress. The minimal conference report and other reports related to passage of the amendments have already proved troublesome where the language Congress used is ambiguous. For example, litigation and political pressure have embroiled EPA's WEPCo rulemaking, which addresses how the amended Act's new source performance standards and new source review programs are to be applied to electric utilities' plans to renovate existing facilities. This may be only the tip of the struggles that EPA will face in implementing the new law.

In this three part series of Articles, the authors provide a comprehensive analysis of the Clean Air Act, from its origins through the 1990 amendments and their impacts. In Part I, the authors discuss the history of the Clean Air Act and provide a section-by-section overview of its provisions. In addition, they explain the Act's focus on national air quality standards, provisions for state implementation plans, and the goal of bringing areas with dirty air into attainment of the standards.

Parts II and III, planned for publication in the next two to three months, will address the 1977 amendments, EPA's post-1987 attainment policy, comprehensive analysis of the 1990 amendments, and impacts of the 1990 amendments on regulatory agencies and industry.

Theodore L. Garrett is a partner in the law firm of Covington and Burling in Washington, D.C. Mr. Garrett has coordinated the firm's environmental practice and has been extensively involved in litigation and administrative proceedings. A former U.S. Supreme Court law clerk to Chief Justice Burger, Mr. Garrett has served as a featured speaker at numerous environmental law and litigation programs, and has written widely in the environmental area. He is a coauthor of the ALI-ABA book A Practical Guide to Environmental Law and the ABA book Environmental Litigation. Mr. Garrett is vice-chairman of the Solid and Hazardous Waste Committee of the ABA Section of Natural Resources, Energy, and Environmental Law; a member of the Steering Committee of the Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources Section of the District of Columbia Bar; a member of the Editorial Board of the Environmental Law Reporter; and a member of the Advisory Committee on Hazardous Waste of the Center for Public Resources.

Sonya D. Winner is a partner in the law firm of Covington and Burling, where she practices in the areas of environmental law, international trade, and antitrust. She is a graduate of Michigan State University (B.A. 1979) and Harvard Law School (J.D., magna cum laude, 1982). After graduation, she served as a law clerk to Judge Louis F. Oberdorfer of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. She is a member of the adjunct faculty at the American University Washington College of Law, where she has taught courses in international commercial arbitration and legal ethics.

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