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Air quality law

Air quality laws govern the emission of air pollutants to-date scientic data on the health eects of the pollu-
into the atmosphere. A specialized subset of air qual- tant under review, with specic information on exposure
ity laws regulate the quality of air inside buildings. Air times and sensitive populations. It also generally requires
quality laws are often designed specically to protect periodic or continuous monitoring of air quality.
human health by limiting or eliminating airborne pollu-
As an example, the United States Environmental Pro-
tant concentrations. Other initiatives are designed to ad- tection Agency has developed the National Ambient Air
dress broader ecological problems, such as limitations on
Quality Standards (NAAQS)[6] NAAQS set attainment
chemicals that aect the ozone layer, and emissions trad- thresholds for sulfur dioxide, particulate matter (PM10
ing programs to address acid rain or climate change. Reg- and PM.), carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen oxides
ulatory eorts include identifying and categorizing air NO, and lead (Pb) in outdoor air throughout the United
pollutants, setting limits on acceptable emissions levels, States. Another set of standards, for indoor air in employ-
and dictating necessary or appropriate mitigation tech- ment settings, is administered by the U.S. Occupational
nologies. Safety and Health Administration.[7]
A distinction may be made between mandatory and as-
pirational air quality standards. For example, U.S. state
1 Air pollutant classication governments must work toward achieving NAAQS, but
are not forced to meet them. On the other hand, employ-
Air quality regulation must identify the substances and ers may be required immediately to rectify any violation
energies which qualify as "pollution" for purposes of of OSHA workplace air quality standards.
further control. While specic labels vary from juris-
diction to jurisdiction, there is broad consensus among
many governments regarding what constitutes air pollu-
tion. For example, the United States Clean Air Act identi- 3 Emission standards
es ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrogen
oxides (NO), sulfur dioxide (SO2 ), and lead (Pb) as cri- Main article: Emission standard
teria pollutants requiring nationwide regulation.[1] EPA
has also identied over 180 compounds it has classied Emission standards are the legal requirements govern-
as hazardous pollutants requiring strict control.[2] Other ing air pollutants released into the atmosphere. Emis-
compounds have been identied as air pollutants due to sion standards set quantitative limits on the permissible
their adverse impact on the environment (e.g., CFCs as amount of specic air pollutants that may be released
agents of ozone depletion), and on human health (e.g., from specic sources over specic timeframes. They are
asbestos in indoor air).[3] A broader conception of air pol- generally designed to achieve air quality standards and to
lution may also incorporate noise, light, and radiation. protect human health.
The United States has recently seen controversy over
whether carbon dioxide (CO2 ) and other greenhouse Numerous methods exist for determining appropriate
gases should be classied as air pollutants.[4] emissions standards, and dierent regulatory approaches
may be taken depending on the source, industry, and
air pollutant under review.<See generally, U.S. EPA
Emissions] page. Specic limits may be set by reference
2 Air quality standards to and within the connes of more general air quality
standards. Specic sources may be regulated by means
Air quality standards are legal standards or requirements of performance standards, meaning numerical limits on
governing concentrations of air pollutants in breathed air, the emission of a specic pollutant from that source cat-
both outdoors and indoors. Such standards generally egory. Regulators may also mandate the adoption and
are expressed as levels of specic air pollutants that are use of specic control technologies, often with reference
deemed acceptable in ambient air, and are most often de- to feasibility, availability, and cost. Still other standards
signed to reduce or eliminate the human health eects of may be set using performance as a benchmark - for exam-
air pollution, although secondary eects such as crop and ple, requiring all of a specic type of facility to meet the
building damage may also be considered.[5] Determining emissions limits achieved by the best performing facility
appropriate air quality standards generally requires up- of the group. All of these methods may be modied by

1
2 6 DATA COLLECTION AND ACCESS

incorporating emissions averaging, market mechanisms of the pollutant.


such as emissions trading, and other alternatives. A common example is a burn ban.[12] Residential and
For example, all of these approaches are used in the commercial burning of wood materials may be restricted
United States.[8] The United States Environmental Pro- during times of poor air quality, eliminating the imme-
tection Agency (responsible for air quality regulation at diate emission of particulate matter and requiring use
a national level under the U.S. Clean Air Act, utilizes of non-polluting heating methods. A more signicant
performance standards under the New Source Perfor- example is the widespread ban on the manufacture of
mance Standard (NSPS) program. Technology require- dichlorodiuoromethane (Freon)), formerly the standard
ments are set under RACT (Reasonably Available Con- refrigerant in automobile air conditioning systems. This
trol Technology), BACT (Best Available Control Tech- substance, often released into the atmosphere uninten-
nology), and LAER (Lowest Achievable Emission Rate) tionally as a result of refrigerant system leaks, was de-
standards.[9] Flexibility alternatives are implemented in termined to have a signicant ozone depletion potential,
U.S. programs to eliminate acid rain, protect the ozone and its widespread use to pose a signicant threat to the
layer, achieve permitting standards, and reduce green- Earths ozone layer. Its manufacture was prohibited as
house gas emissions.[10] part of a suite of restrictions adopted internationally in the
Montreal Protocol to the Vienna Convention for the Pro-
tection of the Ozone Layer. Still another example is the
4 Control technology requirements ban on use of asbestos in building construction materi-
als, to eliminate future exposure to carcinogenic asbestos
bers when the building materials are disturbed.
In place of or in combination with air quality standards
and emission control standards, governments may choose
to reduce air pollution by requiring regulated parties to
adopt emissions control technologies (i.e., technology 6 Data collection and access
that reduces or eliminates emissions). Such devices in-
clude but are not limited to are stacks, incinerators,
Air quality laws may impose substantial requirements for
catalytic combustion reactors, selective catalytic reduc-
collecting, storing, submitting, and providing access to
tion reactors, electrostatic precipitators, baghouses, wet
technical data for various purposes, including regulatory
scrubbers, cyclones, thermal oxidizers, Venturi scrub-
enforcement, public health programs, and policy devel-
bers, carbon adsorbers, and biolters.
opment.
The selection of emissions control technology may be the
Data collection processes may include monitoring am-
subject of complex regulation that may balance multiple
bient air for the presence of pollutants, directly mon-
conicting considerations and interests, including eco-
itoring emissions sources, or collecting other quantita-
nomic cost, availability, feasibility, and eectiveness.[11]
tive information from which air quality information may
The various weight given to each factor may ultimately
be deduced. For example, local agencies may employ a
determine the technology selected. The outcome of an
particulate matter sampler to determine ambient air qual-
analysis seeking a technology that all players in an indus-
ity in a locality over time. Fossil power plants may re-
try can aord could be dierent from an analysis seeking
quired to monitor emissions at a ue-gas stack to deter-
to require all players to adopt the most eective technol-
mine quantities of relevant pollutants emitted. Automo-
ogy yet developed, regardless of cost. For example, the
bile manufacturers may be required to collect data regard-
United States Clean Air Act contains several control tech-
ing car sales, which, when combined with technical spec-
nology requirements, including Best Available Control
ications regarding fuel consumption and eciency, may
Technology (BACT) (used in New Source Review), Rea-
be used to estimate total vehicle emissions. In each case,
sonably Available Control Technology (RACT) (exist-
data collection may be short- or long-term, and at varying
ing sources), Lowest Achievable Emissions Rate (LAER)
frequency (e.g., hourly, daily).
(used for major new sources in non-attainment areas),
and Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) Air quality laws may include detailed requirements for
standards. recording, storing, and submitting relevant information,
generally with the ultimate goal of standardizing data
practices in order to facilitate data access and manipula-
tion at a later time.[13] Precise requirements may be very
5 Bans dicult to determine without technical training and may
change over time in response to, for example, changes in
Air quality laws may take the form of bans. While ar- law, changes in policy, changes in available technology,
guably a class of emissions control law (where the emis- and changes in industry practice. Such requirements may
sion limit is set to zero), bans dier in that they may reg- be developed at a national level and reect consensus or
ulate activity other than the emission of a pollutant itself, compromise between government agencies, regulated in-
even though the ultimate goal is to eliminate the emission dustry, and public interest groups.
8.2 Canada 3

Once air quality data are collected and submitted, some Environmental Protection: Aircraft Engine Emis-
air quality laws may require government agencies or pri- sions, Annex 16, vol. 2 to the Chicago Convention
vate parties to provide the public with access to the in- on International Civil Aviation, Montreal, 1981.
formation - whether the raw data alone, or via tools to
make the data more useful, accessible, and understand- Framework Convention on Climate Change (UN-
able. Where public access mandates are general, it may FCCC), New York, 1992, including the Kyoto Pro-
be left to the collecting agency to decide whether and to tocol, 1997, and the Paris Agreement, 2015.
what extent the data is to be centralized and organized.
For example, the United States Environmental Protec- Georgia Basin-Puget Sound International Airshed
tion Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Admin- Strategy, Vancouver, Statement of Intent, 2002.[18]
istration, National Park Service, and tribal, state, and lo- Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone
cal agencies coordinate to produce an online mapping Layer, Vienna, 1985, including the Montreal Pro-
and data access tool called AirNow, which provides real- tocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer,
time public access to U.S. air quality index information, Montreal 1987.
searchable by location.
Once data are collected and published, they may be used U.S.-Canada Air Quality Agreement (bilateral U.S.-
as inputs in mathematical models and forecasts. For Canadian agreement on acid rain), 1986
example, atmospheric dispersion modeling may be em-
ployed to examine the potential impact of new regulatory
requirements on existing populations or geographic areas. 8.2 Canada
Such models in turn could drive changes in data collection
and reporting requirements. With some industry-specic exceptions, Canadian air
pollution regulation was traditionally handled at the
provincial level.[19] However, under the authority of the
Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, the coun-
7 Controversy try has recently enacted a national program called the
Canadian Air Quality Management System (AQMS).
Proponents of air quality law argue that they have caused The program includes ve main regulatory mechanisms:
or contributed to major reductions in air pollution, with the Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards (CAAQS);
concomitant human health and environmental benets, Base Level Industrial Emission Requirements (BLIERs)
even in the face of large-scale economic growth and in- (emissions controls and technology); management of lo-
creases in motor vehicle use.[14] On the other hand, con- cal air quality through the management of Local Air
troversy may arise over the estimated cost of additional Zones; management of regional air quality through the
regulatory standards.[15] management of Regional Airsheds; and collaboration to
[20]
Arguments over cost, however, cut both ways. For ex- reduce mobile source emissions.
ample, the estimates that the benets of reducing ne The Canadian government has also made eorts to pass
particle and ground level ozone pollution under the 1990 legislation related to the countrys greenhouse gas emis-
Clean Air Act amendments will reach approximately $2 sions. It has passed laws related to fuel economy in
trillion in 2020 while saving 230,000 people from early passenger vehicles and light trucks, heavy-duty vehi-
death in that year alone. According to the same report, cles, renewable fuels, and the energy and transportation
2010 alone the reduction of ozone and particulate mat- sectors.[21]
ter in the atmosphere prevented more than 160,000 cases
of premature mortality, 130,000 heart attacks, 13 million
lost work days and 1.7 million asthma attacks.[16] Criti- 8.3 China
cisms of EPAs methodologies in reaching these and sim-
ilar numbers are publicly available.[17] China, with severe air pollution in mega-cities and indus-
trial centers, particularly in the north, has adapted the
Airborne Pollution Prevention and Control Action Plan
8 Around the world which aims for a 25% reduction in air pollution by 2017
from 2012 levels. Funded by $277 billion from the cen-
tral government, the action plan targets PM 2.5 particu-
8.1 International law lates which aect human health.[22]
International law includes agreements related to trans-
national air quality, including greenhouse gas emissions: 8.4 New Zealand

Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pol- New Zealand passed its Clean Air Act 1972 in re-
lution (LRTAP), Geneva, 1979. sponse to growing concerns over industrial and urban air
4 9 REFERENCES

pollution.[23] That Act classied sources, imposed per- [7] See U.S. OSHA, Indoor Air Quality.
mitting requirements, and created a process for deter-
mining requisite control technology. Local authorities [8] See generally, U.S. EPA, Setting Emissions Standards
were authorized to regulate smaller polluters. Within the Based on Technology Performance, Building Flexibility
Christchurch Clean Air Zone, burn bans and other mea- with Accountability into Clean Air Programs, and linked
sures were eected to control smog. materials.

The Clean Air Act 1972 was replaced by the Resource [9] See U.S. EPA, Emissions page.
Management Act 1991. The act did not set air qual-
ity standards, but did provide for national guidance to [10] See U.S. EPA, EPAs Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduc-
be developed. This resulted in the promulgation of tions.
New Zealands National Environmental Standards for Air
Quality in 2004 with subsequent amendments.[24] [11] See, for example, U.S. EPAs Industrial Boiler process and
linked materials.

8.5 United Kingdom [12] See, e.g., Puget Sound Air Resources Board Burn Bans.

In response to the Great Smog of 1952, the British Par- [13] See, for example Massachusetts EPA Air Permit & Re-
liament introduced the Clean Air Act 1956. This act leg- porting Toolkit Forms.
islated for zones where smokeless fuels had to be burnt
and relocated power stations to rural areas. The Clean [14] See Union of Concerned Scientists, The Clean Air Act.
Air Act 1968[25] introduced the use of tall chimneys to
disperse air pollution for industries burning coal, liquid [15] See, e.g., W. Koch, Obama, EPA sued for nixing tougher
or gaseous fuels.[26] The Clean Air Act was updated in ozone rules (USA Today).
1993 and can be reviewed online legislation Clean Air
[16] Enesta Jones (03/01/2011). EPA Report Under-
Act 1993. The biggest domestic impact comes from Part
scores Clean Air Acts Successful Public Health Protec-
III, Smoke Control Areas, which are designated by local
tions/Landmark law saved 160,000 lives in 2010 alone.
authorities and can vary by street in large towns. EPA.gov. Retrieved 22 March 2012. Check date values
in: |date= (help)

8.6 United States [17] See generally EPA air quality dockets at www.regulations.
gov.
Main article: Clean Air Act (United States)
See also: United States environmental law [18] Georgia Basin-Puget Sound International Airshed Strat-
egy, Vancouver, Statement of Intent, 2002.
The primary law regulating air quality in the United States
is the U.S. Clean Air Act. The law was initially enacted [19] See Environmental Law in Canada, Blakes Lawyers
as the Air Pollution Control Act of 1955. Amendments (2012).
in 1967 and 1970 (the framework for todays U.S. Clean
[20] Overview available at Newfoundland Labrador Depart-
Air Act) imposed national air quality requirements, and
ment of Environment and Conservation.
placed administrative responsibility with the newly cre-
ated Environmental Protection Agency. Major amend- [21] See [www.climatechange.gc.ca Canadas Action on Cli-
ments followed in 1977 and 1990. State and local gov- mate Change].
ernments have enacted similar legislation, either imple-
menting federal programs or lling in locally important [22] Airborne Pollution Prevention and Control Action Plan
gaps in federal programs. (2013-17)". China.org.cn. August 16, 2013. Retrieved
December 10, 2014.

9 References [23] Historical information in this section adapted from The


State of New Zealands Environment 1997, Chapter 6.
[1] U.S. EPA, What Are the Six Common Air Pollutants?
[24] See About the NES.
[2] U.S. EPA, Original list of hazardous air pollutants.
[25] Watership Down author Richard Adams mentions his role
[3] U.S. EPA, Air Pollutants. in the Clean Air Act 1968
[4] See Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency.
[26] United Kingdoms Clean Air Acts
[5] See generally U.S. EPA, Air Quality.

[6] See U.S. EPA NAAQS. American Jurisprudence, 2d: Pollution Control
5

10 External links
Protection of the atmosphere -- Bibliographies on
the topics of the International Law Commission (no.
14 in the list) (UNOG Library)

EPA Oce of Air and Radiation

EPA Plain English Guide to the Clean Air Act


Primer on Clean Air Act and Climate Change
6 11 TEXT AND IMAGE SOURCES, CONTRIBUTORS, AND LICENSES

11 Text and image sources, contributors, and licenses


11.1 Text
Air quality law Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_quality_law?oldid=687352062 Contributors: Fred Bauder, Icairns, Ricky81682,
Old Moonraker, Bgwhite, CambridgeBayWeather, Thane, Arthur Rubin, SmackBot, Hu Gadarn, Mbeychok, Cydebot, Gogo Dodo, Quite-
Unusual, Wrokic, Gabriel Kielland, Rettetast, DadaNeem, DASonnenfeld, Ggenellina, JL-Bot, Yobot, Ipatrol, Materialscientist, Ado2102,
FrescoBot, Sopher99, SeoMac, Venustas 12, ClueBot NG, Jack Greenmaven, Helpful Pixie Bot, SeabluWind, Wuerzele, ElHef, LP358,
Interactive science, JRodrigues13 and Anonymous: 23

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Original artist: NASA/Apollo 17 crew; taken by either Harrison Schmitt or Ron Evans

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