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The Clinton Administration's Clean Air Accomplishments

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Council on Environmental Quality


Clean Air: A Record of Accomplishment

December 21, 1999

Since 1993, the number of Americans whose communities meet federal air quality standards has grown by 43 million. To continue this progress, President Clinton and Vice President Gore have launched major clean air initiatives, including tough new smog and soot standards that will protect the health of 125 million Americas, including 35 million children. The Clinton Administration's clean air achievements include:

Making cars and fuels cleaner. Announced the toughest standards ever for reducing harmful air pollution from auto tailpipes an action that will make new cars 77 to 95 percent cleaner than current standards. The new rule means cleaner, healthier air for everyone as 50 million tons of smog-causing air pollution will be removed from the air over the next few decades.

  • The new standards for the first time ensure that SUV's, mini-vans and light-duty trucks meet the same low levels of tailpipe emissions as other passenger cars.
  • The action also significantly reduces sulfur levels, and for the first time treats cleaner gasoline and cleaner cars as a single system for achieving cleaner air.

Cutting emissions from power plants. Took unprecedented action to reduce smog-causing pollutants from large power plants and industrial sources at 392 facilities by requiring that emissions of harmful nitrogen oxides be cut by almost half.

  • These reductions will mean healthier air for 100 million Americans, both in communities near the plants and in communities hundreds of miles away who are affected by the transport of air pollution across their states' borders.
  • This action responds to petitions filed under the Clean Air Act by Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

Fighting for tougher clean-air standards. Approved strong new clean air standards for soot and smog that will prevent up to 15,000 premature deaths a year and improve the lives of millions of Americans who suffer from respiratory illnesses. These standards have been delayed by litigation. The Administration is pursuing this case in court.

Cleaning skies over national parks. Announced new federal efforts to improve air quality in our national parks and wilderness areas.

  • The new "regional haze" plan aims to restore pristine skies and unspoiled views at the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Acadia and the Great Smoky Mountains national parks and other natural treasures that draw 290 million visitors a year.
  • The plan addresses air pollution from power plants, cars and factories that can cause a veil of white or brown haze to hang over many parks during much of the year.

Reducing harmful emissions from heavy-duty trucks and diesel fuels. Announced a strategy to reduce by over 90 percent harmful emissions of smog-causing nitrogen oxides and particulate matter, or soot, from heavy-duty trucks. When complete, the strategy will also lead to cleaner-burning diesel fuels.

  • In the first phase beginning in 2004, the proposed new engine standards will make gasoline trucks 78 percent cleaner and diesel trucks 40 percent cleaner. Emissions of soot will be reduced by 55,000 tons per year.
  • Next year in the second phase, EPA plans to propose reducing nitrogen oxides from heavy trucks by 80 to 90 percent and soot by an additional 80 to 90 percent, possibly as early as 2007.

Enforcing clean air laws. Took significant clean air enforcement actions by filing seven lawsuits against electrical utility companies in the Midwest and South.

  • Aimed at dramatically reducing smog and acid rain throughout the Midwest and along the East Coast, the enforcement action alleges that the companies' power plants have contributed to severe environmental and public health problems.
  • The cases allege that these plants have expanded their facilities and output over the years without also adding required pollution controls.

Reducing air toxics. Issued several new rules to reduce emissions of air toxics from a variety of sources.

  • Proposed rules for municipal waste combusters nationwide, sharply reducing toxic air pollutants like mercury, lead and cadmium.
  • Issued the first federal rules to protect public health by significantly reducing harmful toxic air pollution from medical incinerators. The rules reduced mercury emissions by 94 percent and dioxin by 95 percent.
  • Took the strongest action ever to reduce air toxics by requiring massive reductions in pollution from a variety of industrial sources including chemical plants and petroleum refineries. This action alone called for 90 percent reductions in major air toxics and was the equivalent of taking 38 million cars off the road.

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Cleaner Air for the New Century

Cleaner Cars & Cleaner Fuels for the 21st Century

The Clinton Administration's Clean Air Accomplishments

President's Remarks on Cleaner Cars & Cleaner Fuels

State by State Breakdown of Emissions Reductions