Environment: Clean Air Mess

When Congress passed the Clean Air Act of 1970, its aims were laudable: to keep the nation's air clean and to protect the public from noxious fumes. The trouble was that the act's provisions, if strictly enforced, could also end construction of new factories, power plants and smelters that might belch those fumes in areas that now have clean air. Did the lawmakers intend such a curb on economic growth in undeveloped regions? The issue went to the federal courts in 1972, and the basic ruling—one that was upheld in the U.S. Supreme Court—was...