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The Clean Air Act (CAA) is the comprehensive federal law that regulates air emissions from stationary and mobile sources. Among other things, this law authorizes EPA to establish National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) to protect public health and public welfare and to regulate emissions of hazardous air pollutants.
One of the goals of the Act was to set and achieve NAAQS in every state by 1975 in order to address the public health and welfare risks posed by certain widespread air pollutants. The setting of these pollutant standards was coupled with directing the states to develop state implementation plans (SIPs), applicable to appropriate industrial sources in the state, in order to achieve these standards. The Act was amended in 1977 and 1990 primarily to set new goals (dates) for achieving attainment of NAAQS since many areas of the country had failed to meet the deadlines.
Section 112 of the Clean Air Act addresses emissions of hazardous air pollutants. Prior to 1990, CAA established a risk-based program under which only a few standards were developed. The 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments revised Section 112 to first require issuance of technology-based standards for major sources and certain area sources. "Major sources" are defined as a stationary source or group of stationary sources that emit or have the potential to emit 10 tons per year or more of a hazardous air pollutant or 25 tons per year or more of a combination of hazardous air pollutants. An "area source" is any stationary source that is not a major source.
For major sources, Section 112 requires that EPA establish emission standards that require the maximum degree of reduction in emissions of hazardous air pollutants. These emission standards are commonly referred to as "maximum achievable control technology" or "MACT" standards. Eight years after the technology-based MACT standards are issued for a source category, EPA is required to review those standards to determine whether any residual risk exists for that source category and, if necessary, revise the standards to address such risk.
The Montreal Protocol is widely considered as the most successful environment protection agreement. The Protocol sets out a mandatory timetable for the phase out of ozone depleting substances. This timetable has been reviewed regularly, with phase out dates accelerated in accordance with scientific understanding and technological advances.
The Montreal Protocol sets binding progressive phase out obligations for developed and developing countries for all the major ozone depleting substances, including CFCs, halons and less damaging transitional chemicals such as HCFCs.
The Multilateral Fund, the first financial mechanism to be created under an international treaty, was created under the Protocol in 1990 to provide financial assistance to developing countries to help them achieve their phase out obligations.
The Montreal Protocol targets 96 chemicals in thousands of applications across more than 240 industrial sectors. The Multilateral Fund has provided more than US $2.5 billion in financial assistance to developing countries to phase out production and consumption of ozone depleting substances since the Protocol's inception in 1987.
The Protocol has been further strengthened through five Amendments - London 1990, Copenhagen 1992, Vienna 1995, Montreal 1997 and Beijing 1999 - which have brought forward phase out schedules and added new ozone depleting substances to the list of substances controlled under the Montreal Protocol.
The Montreal Protocol has also produced other significant environmental benefits. Most notably, the phase out of ozone depleting substances is responsible for delaying climate forcing by up to 12 years.