Cooperative federalism: Is there a trend towards uniform national standards under the Clean Air Act?

Vol. 45 No. 5

Kurt Kastorf is a counsel in the Washington, DC, office of WilmerHale. Formerly, he was an appellate attorney in the Environment & Natural Resources Division of the United States Department of Justice.

The Clean Air Act (CAA) is structured around the principle of “cooperative federalism.” In enacting the CAA, Congress emphasized that “air pollution control at its source is the primary responsibility of States and local governments,” but that federal leadership “is essential for the development of cooperative Federal, State, regional, and local programs to prevent and control air pollution.” 42 U.S.C. § 7401. At the core of this cooperative framework are State Implementation Plans (SIPs) developed and enforced at the state level. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which approves SIPs, may call for a state to revise its SIP if the agency finds it substantially inadequate to enforce the act. EPA has also exercised its authority by issuing Federal Implementation Plans (FIPs) that mandate emission cuts under CAA section 126(b).

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