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The Clean Air Act: A Suitable Tool for Addressing the Challenges of Climate Change


April 2011








The political opponents of regulation addressing climate change claim that the Clean Air Act (CAA) is a “fossil” neither intended nor suitable for addressing the challenges of climate change. Legal and historical analysis suggests otherwise. Both the text of the Act, as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court in Massachusetts v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the legislative history indicate a congressional intent to regulate emissions of pollutants that pose a risk of causing changes in worldwide climate. Far from being a fossil, the statutory “bones” provide a broad array of regulatory and other tools that can be flexibly applied. These include not only technology-based emissions standards and enforcement tools, but programs for comprehensive planning by states to use the full range of incentives and disincentives available under their police and spending powers. These tools also include tradable permits, emissions fees and auctions, other incentive-based emissions reductions approaches, and air quality-based limits.