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Waxman on Why the Clean Air Act Was Adopted

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Published on Dec 26, 2010

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-CA, says he knows firsthand why the Clean Air Act was passed. Waxman, 71, says as a child growing up in Los Angeles, he breathed particle-filled air that stung his eyes. His outdoor playtime was limited. People could not see the hills and mountains surrounding the city. He says areas like Los Angeles where pollution affected people's lives and health spurred Americans to act on the problem -- one that many believed was not correctable. Coming from Los Angeles, he's always believed strongly that the air pollution needed to be cleaned up.
When the air pollution problems in Los Angeles became apparent in the 1940s, the county organized a "Smoke and Fumes Board," a panel on which his uncle served. Waxman says his uncle was thrown off the board because he believed the problem was caused by emissions from large industries, and instead of cracking down on those industries, officials banned outdoor leaf burning and residential trash incinerators.
When the Clean Air Act was passed in 1970, California was ahead of the nation in environmental standards, and the federal law allowed the state to keep those high standards and continue to serve as an example for the nation. He says the act has been a huge success for California and the nation. It cut pollution by 60 percent at a time when the economy was growing by 200 percent. He says that shows it's been successful at both cleaning up the air and helping the economy.
He says much of the act's success is because it contains strategies to reduce pollution over time, such as phasing in auto fuel economy and emissions standards with new models.

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