Amid the recent commemorations of John F. Kennedy, an environmentalist can’t help remarking that Camelot never was associated with Green. Why? Because the environmental movement wasn’t institutionalized when JFK was president: In particular, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wasn’t established until 1970. Nonetheless, 1963 marked a set of events that led directly to the EPA. In this story, seldom told, Connecticut has played a big role.
The story is about the Clean Air Act of 1963, the first major environmental legislation in U.S. history. Before this Act, pollution was regarded as a state problem, with the federal government providing only technical assistance. The arrangement imposed heavy burdens on the states, however, whose priorities and budgets regarding pollution differed markedly in the absence of any nation-wide public health standards.