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Air is the ultimate public good. No one owns it but everyone uses it. Protecting it is clearly a great challenge. Since its inception in the mid-1960s, the federal Clean Air Act (CAA) has been a crucial component in managing this resource, but it has also been a source of strife and discontent. The law was forward-looking for its time, pressing polluters to radically change their ways, while still accounting for the fact that we would never be a zero-pollution society. It has also changed with the times, as problems that could not have been imagined in 1970, such as atmospheric ozone depletion and acid rain, have since been addressed, while other issues have been revisited as scientific understanding of atmospheric processes, such as those governing the formation of smog and the distribution of airborne toxics, has improved.

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