Earth Friendly: Clean Air Act at a glance

Kate Garcia

As I was standing in the parking lot the other day with a colleague and a co-worker of mine, I noticed a hum in the air. It wasn't a comforting or welcomed hum, but the hum of a vehicle engine idling without a driver. I would normally never have thought much of this until I started working with Environmental Services.

Working here, I was exposed to the knowledge of why it's damaging to idle your vehicle excessively. I have always been a believer in "knowledge is power." Therefore, I'd like this column to speak a brief history of the air quality legislation. • Air Pollution Control Act (1955) - First federal legislation involving air pollution.

• Clean Air Act (1963) - First federal legislation involving air pollution control. Established federal program within the U.S. Public Health Services to authorize means to monitor and control air pollution.

Air Quality Act (1967) - Enforcement proceedings were initiated in areas subject to interstate air pollution transport. It was the first time ambient air monitoring and stationary source inspections were conducted. Here in Victoria County, we have three ambient monitoring sites: one in Fannin, one in Inez and one in central Victoria.•  Clean Air Act (1970) - Authorized both federal and state comprehensive regulations to limit stationary (industrial) and mobile sources. Four major regulatory programs created: National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS; Victoria's is about 70 parts per billion), State Implementation Plans, New Source Performance Standards and National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants. Enforcement authority expanded.

• Clean Air Act Amendments (1977) - Allowed provisions for the Prevention of Significant Deterioration of attainment areas and requirements pertaining to sources from nonattainment areas.

Note: "Attainment" simply means an area's air quality standard remains in the acceptable range of NAAQS. Nonattainment means an area's air quality standard exceeds the NAAQS acceptable range. Victoria is in an attainment at 70ppb.

Clean Air Act Amendments (1990) - Established programs for acid deposition control program to control of 189 toxic pollutants, expanded and modified provisions concerning attainment of NAAQS as well as enforcement authority and established programs to phase out use of chemicals that deplete the ozone layer.• Clean Air Act as of 2008 - During the Bush administration, the air quality standard was set at 75ppb. This is the standard still in use today.

OK, let's break from this legislation stuff for a minute. Around the '50s and '60s, major milestones occurred. For instance vehicle traffic - the automobile industry flourished. Suddenly more families owned cars - some even multiple cars, which significantly increased the amount of harmful emissions generated. So the government began legislation, like those above, to protect quality of life in general.

To reiterate, this all comes full circle to our goal at environmental services. We are here to ensure the protection and betterment of the quality of life in Victoria.

We aim to engage citizens in helping keep Victoria as clean, livable and loveable as possible. Live environmentally conscious today for a better tomorrow.

Source: Facts and figures are gathered from epa.gov and nytimes.com.

Kate Garcia is the interim programs coordinator for the city of Victoria, Environmental Services.