Clean Air Council Looks Back on 50 Years
Our country has grown and changed so much in the 50 years since the Clean Air Council was established as the Delaware Valley Citizens’ Council for Clean Air in 1967. Back then gas cost 33 cents a gallon. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was released. The Vietnam War raged on.
In Philadelphia, political unrest ignited as a demonstration of striking students turned into a violent clash with police – Frank Rizzo had just been appointed police commissioner. The Philadelphia Flyers entered the NHL.
Over the years, I’ve been thrilled to see a rise in environmental activism, and as I look back on 50 years of the Council, I am proud of how much we have accomplished. Yet we still have so far to go.
I was just a kid in 1967 living in Africa as the son of a United States diplomat. I lived for soccer – which we called football. I wouldn’t join the Council for another 15 years, but it was a powerful voice for the environment from the outset. 1967 saw the Council testify for stronger sulfur fuel restrictions in New Jersey and organize the region’s first Clean Air Week. That balance of political activism and community outreach continues to be our M.O. to this day.
Our activism gained momentum a few years later when we filed our first lawsuit, suing auto manufacturers for conspiring to keep pollution control devices off their vehicles. We sued the EPA to reduce carbon monoxide levels, won a 12-year battle to get Pennsylvania to implement vehicle emissions inspections, and helped the City of Philadelphia develop its recycling program. The Council even protested the Philadelphia Inquirer for not using enough recycled materials in its newspapers.
We also participated in the region’s celebration of the first Earth Day (and many since) and established the Run for Clean Air (now in its 35th year). We coordinated the #cutmethane campaign, resulting in 11,000 comments from Pennsylvania citizens calling for tougher methane pollution regulations. Today, our annual Greenfest and Dine Out for the Environment Events bring thousands in the city and our region together in the name of a healthier planet.
Looking back on 50 years, Clean Air Council has accomplished much since 1967. And we know so much more about our environment and the devastating effects fossil fuels and greenhouse gasses have. We know climate change is real.
We have also lost so much ground. An outspoken climate change denier sits in our nation’s highest office, and we stand alone as the only country in the world not part of the Paris Agreement. In Pennsylvania, now the second largest natural gas producer in the US, methane leaks endanger the health of thousands. Meanwhile, new pipelines are tearing through our communities, and irresponsible drilling has resulted in dozens of spills.
At Clean Air Council we will never slow down in the fight to hold polluters and government accountable. We’ve sued the EPA to defend methane pollution rules. We’re fighting the Mariner East Pipeline throughout the state for its illegal taking of private property and irresponsible damage to fragile ecosystems and we are pushing Governor Wolf to keep his campaign promise to enact tougher methane emission regulations for existing sources.
We most recently embarked on one of our most important actions in 50 years. We’re suing Donald Trump for denying climate change and rolling back greenhouse gas limits based on junk science.
We’re proud of everything Clean Air Council has accomplished in the last half century, and we can’t wait to spend the next 50 years continuing to fight to protect everyone’s right to breathe clean air.
Joseph Otis Minott, Esq
Executive Director and Chief Counsel