Oops, forgot to mention President Bush and the Clean Air Act | The Clean Air Act as a "framework element" for government agency practice
In an e-mail discussion, I have been harping on "framework elements" in master plans (land use, transportation, etc.). For example, DC's Framework Element in its Comprehensive Plan treats all the policies as equal.
By contrast, the equivalent element in Arlington County's Master Transportation Plan treats its goals as overarching, and each subsequent element is both internally consistent and consistent with the framework element. Since the Framework Element's primary goal is to promote mobility throughput and reduction of single occupancy vehicle trips, the whole plan aims to do that.
Similarly, San Francisco's "Transit First" policy, enshrined in the City Charter, prioritizes and privileges sustainable mobility policy over motor vehicles ("Transit First Mobility Policies and Planning Paradigms," 2006).
During the Administration of President George H.W. Bush, Congress passed the Clean Air Act ("We can breathe easier — literally — thanks to George H.W. Bush," Washington Post) and President Bush was actively involved in getting the bill passed. From the article:
It is difficult to overstate the importance to the nation’s health and welfare of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, and Bush played a pivotal role in their passage. The legislation was hopelessly mired in Congress until Bush used presidential muscle to break a logjam and get it passed. The updating of the 1970 law remains the most sweeping and comprehensive environmental statute on the books. It created the first “cap and trade” program, which ultimately ended the industrial air pollution causing “acid rain” that had blighted large parts of the country. The program’s use of market mechanisms provides a blueprint for controlling all air pollution that contributes to global warming.
The law also paved the way for the requirement for cleaner-running cars and clean fuels that have radically reduced pollution from smog in the United States. And it provided the government with the ability to control 189 toxic substances that had poisoned the air and to require permits from individual sources of pollution. Citizens were empowered to bring lawsuits seeking penalties against violators to ensure the law’s enforcement.
-- "George H.W. Bush understood that markets and the environment weren't enemies," PBS News Hour
-- "Clean Air Act Revamp, Climate Part of George H.W. Bush's Legacy," Bloomberg Businessweek
The Federal Clean Air Act does many things. For cities and urbanism, it has two specific impacts that support better air quality.
First, to improve air quality (and note that the widespread use of diesel gasoline in Europe means that air quality is bad in many cities there) it sets the stage for emissions controls on motor vehicles. It also sets the stage for the support of transit, as a different method for reducing motor vehicle traffic, especially in the cores of metropolitan regions.
Theoretically, it should mean continued concern about fuel efficiency standards for automobiles, since indirectly that drives demand for electric vehicles, which have reduced emissions comparatively speaking. But the Trump Administration has lifted further tightening of these standards.
It means that Federal policy and practice should be supportive of transit generally, and extension of transit in ways that support greater ridership. But the Trump Administration has instituted bureaucratic barriers that make it much harder to release funds for transit projects, even though Congress continues to appropriate money for these projects.
Granted, it's much harder for the Federal Government to think in terms of master plans and framework elements, because it's so big, and there are so many conflicting policies and concerns and changes in political positions.
But if we were take 10-20 key federal acts, and reconceptualize them as a kind of framework plan or element for government operation, and require that administrative action conform, it could make for much different operation and practice across the executive branch.