Motor Vehicle Air Pollution: State Authority and Federal Pre-emption

The problem of state authority over motor vehicle air pollution was recently highlighted when the Illinois Air Pollution Control Board, for the first time, adopted regulations to deal with vehicle emissions. Those regulations are disappointingly feeble. Except for outlawing visible smoke and for making it unlawful to dismantle pollution control devices, the new rules do nothing but state that the Board may decide to do something in the future about pollution from automobiles.

In attempting to improve upon these regulations, however, one is struck with a sense of considerable futility. Given the present limits of technology and the necessarily legislative nature of some of the most promising approaches, there is little that an administrative agency could do under even the best conditions. But unfortunately, even this little is partially denied to the agencies by a misguided federal pre-emption provision. That provision appears in the Air Quality Act of 1967 and severely restricts the power of the states to deal with this urgent problem. It is the purpose of this Article both to stimulate the abolition of the pre-emption provision and to explore the areas that are presently open for state regulation.