The First Twenty Years
In 1967, long before there was an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or a national Clean Air Act, and the Philadelphia region was one of the smoggiest cities in the country, a group of eleven area Tuberculosis and Health Associations agreed to use a portion of their Christmas Seals donations to create the Delaware Valley Citizens’ Council for Clean Air, the group which eventually became the Clean Air Council.
The new group and its staff of two, set about in its first year to coordinate the first Cleaner Air Week celebration and named Irene DeRose, the group’s secretary, Miss Delaware Valley Cleaner Air Week. Also in 1967 the Citizens’ Council for Clean Air testified in New Jersey for strong restrictions on sulfur emissions, and lobbied the city to promote the existing Chief Air Pollution Control Officer to that of Assistant Health Commissioner.
Leading up to the original Earth Day in 1970, the Citizens’ Council for Clean Air called for the establishment of an “air quality control region” that endures to this day, began organizing citizens petitions to complain about air pollution. It also secured passage of Philadelphia’s Air Management Code, filed lawsuit against auto manufacturers for conspiring to keep pollution control devices off their vehicles, and held a citizen workshop to explain air pollution laws.
The Citizens’ Council organizes the local Earth Day celebration and is named one of the nation’s dozen conservation organizations most worthy of public support by the American Heritage Publishing Company.
Throughout the ‘70s, the Council expands its work to include solid waste, energy, and transportation issues as they relate to the tri-state’s air quality. It published a “Citizen’s Handbook on Recycling” and called for the Pennsylvania legislature to pass a vehicle emissions control systems inspection program into law (the Council would consider suing the state when it later fails to implement the inspection program). Through a small grant from the EPA, the Council educated citizens on the State Implementation Process as an enforcement tool to the new Clean Air Act.
In 1980 the Council becomes the regional coordinator of the National Clean Air Coalition, a national group responsible for the successful reauthorization of the Clean Air Act. It also wins a lawsuit against the Philadelphia Coke Company. The next year the Council successfully argues that the state is in violation of its vehicle emissions inspection consent decree and must implement the program.
1982 sees the hiring of Joseph Otis Minott as staff attorney. The Council celebrates its 15th Anniversary and holds the 1st Run for Clean Air.
The 1980s see the Council develop its Indoor Air Pollution Center, co-found Philadelphians for Recycling and helps develop a recycling plan for the city. After forcing the closure of the Northwest incinerator, the Council becomes the leading opponent of municipal solid-waste incinerators across the region.
The Council becomes a key supporter of SEPTA and public transportation in general, and is involved in regional planning with the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission and its 2020 Plan.
Joseph O. Minott becomes the Council’s Executive Director in 1987 and has maintained that position through present day.
This is part of an ongoing series of articles leading up to the Council’s 50th anniversary celebration on November 9th. To learn more about the celebration, click here. To support the Council’s work and be invited to join us in November, click here.