So what’d we do about it?
After decades of smog disrupting life in California and preventing schoolchildren from playing outside, researchers isolated the culprit: pollution from automobiles and industry.
(And, you’ll never guess what, the oil and auto industries, along with the Chamber of Commerce, denied, denied denied, despite the fact that there was no doubt among scientists - sound familiar?)
After decades of rallies and activism, California demanded the first anti-smog controls on cars. Then, in 1970, amendments to the Clean Air Act granted California the authority to go beyond federal standards in light of the state’s dramatic air pollution. The catch: the EPA had to approve any California regulations that exceed federal standards via a waiver. Other states are then given the option to adopt California’s rules or stick with the federal government’s.
(Side note: the Clean Air Act amendments were signed into law by President Nixon - a republican - proving this was not always a partisan issue.)
Over the past 50 years, the EPA has granted California more than 100 waivers, which have led to some of the nation’s most important innovations to fight pollution. On only one occasion has the EPA denied California’s waiver - in 2008, during the Bush Administration, a waiver that was later passed under Obama.