Here is a rundown of a dozen pivotal environmental-policy laws enacted since President Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970. Lawmakers have left some of these statutes relatively untouched for years. Others—namely the Clean Air Act—are now under attack like never before.
The Clean Air Act and the National Environmental Policy Act
Passed in 1970 and significantly amended in 1990, the Clean Air Act set the nation’s first-ever goals and standards for air quality to protect human health. Most current lawmakers view the Clean Air Act through the prism of President Obama’s politically divisive climate-change rules.
Also passed in 1970, the National Environmental Protection Act was one of the first cornerstones of modern U.S. environmental policy. It requires federal agencies to, as environmentalists say, “look before you leap.” Under the act, the government must assess the environmental effects of all the major activities it funds before approving them.
Photos by Getty Images, Graphic courtesy of the Interior Department contributed to this article.