Fifty years ago on Tuesday, the landmark Clean Air Act of 1970 was passed by Congress. Spearheading the measure was Democratic U.S. Sen. Edmund Muskie of Maine, sometimes called the father of the modern environmental movement. Under Muskie’s guidance the Senate vote was unanimous.
“I mean, we can’t get a unanimous vote around here on what time it is these days, so what Muskie achieved in 1970 is really extraordinary,” says independent U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine, joining clean air, public health and climate experts who are hoping the same bipartisan spirit can prevail against the threat of climate change.
King warns that federal environmental protections could be at risk if President Donald Trump’s nominee gets a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. King says that would leave only one member on the high court to have voted with the majority in a 2007 decision that established the right of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act.
“If we add another extremely conservative justice, which is likely over the next 2 or 3 weeks, that precedent is going to be even more at risk,” he says.
King says, while he and his colleagues will do everything they can to slow down the process, he says ultimately, there are no parliamentary tools to stop it.