Acid Precipitation Act of 1980, United States

See also Acid Rain 

The Acid Precipitation Act was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1980 in response to transboundary acid rain, that was causing environmental damage to lakes and forests. Acid rain was viewed as a local problem until Canada brought forward evidence that pollutants originating in the United States were harming Canadian lakes and forests.

The bill states congress's reasons for passing the Act as being because "acid precipitation resulting from other than natural sources - 

  1. could contribute to the increasing pollution of natural and man-made water systems;
  2. could adversely affect agricultural and forest crops;
  3. could adversely affect fish and wildlife and natural ecosystems generally;
  4. could contribute to corrosion of metals, wood, paint, and masonry used in construction and ornamentation of buildings and public monuments;
  5. could adversely affect public health and welfare; and
  6. could affect areas distant from sources and thus involve issues of national and international policy.

The bill states the objectives of the Act as being:

  1. to identify the causes and sources of acid precipitation;
  2. to evaluate the environmental, social, and economic effects of acid precipitation; and
  3. based on the results of the research program established by this subchapter and to the extent consistent with existing law, to take action to the extent necessary and practicable (A) to limit or eliminate the identified emissions which are sources of acid precipitation, and (B) to remedy or otherwise ameliorate the harmful effects which may result from acid precipitation.

Acid precipitation was defined as "the wet or dry deposition from the atmosphere of acid chemical compounds."

The act established an Interagency Acid Precipitation Task Force to create and supervise a ten year National Acid Precipitation Assessment Plan (NAPAP). The Task Force was jointly chaired by the heads of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and included members from other agencies of the federal government, National Laboratories and individuals selected by the President of the United States.

The function of the NAPAP was to: "(1) to identify the causes and effects of acid precipitation and (2) to identify actions to limit or ameliorate the harmful effects of acid precipitation.

The Act provided a broad scope of activities for NAPAP to undertake, including:

  1. identifying the sources of atmospheric emissions contributing to acid precipitation;
  2. establishing and operating a nationwide long-term monitoring network to detect and measure levels of acid precipitation;
  3. research in atmospheric physics and chemistry;
  4. development and application of atmospheric transport models;
  5. defining geographic areas of impact;
  6. collecting and analyzing existing data on water and soil chemistry;
  7. developing dose-response functions related to impacts;
  8. system studies with respect to plant physiology, aquatic ecosystems, soil chemistry systems, soil microbial systems, and forest ecosystems;
  9. economic assessments of the impacts of acid precipitation, and alternative technologies to remedy or otherwise ameliorate impacts;
  10. documenting and coordinating Federal research on acid precipitation;
  11. cooperating with other research and development programs;
  12. formulating periodic recommendations to the Congress and the appropriate agencies about how to alleviate acid precipitation and its effects

As directed by the Act, NAPAP issued its first Annual Report to the President and the Congress in January 1982 describing research progress and the current state of knowledge about acid precipitation and its implications. NAPAP was operated through the office of the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In 1990, NAPAP submitted a comprehensive assessment of the effects of acid rain and summarized current data on emissions, transport, and transformation in the atmosphere. Shortly before the submission of the final report, Congress moved forward with the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, which included, as Title IV, the Acid Deposition Control Program. While there was accusations that NAPAP has "missed the boat" in the timing of its final report, the prior work and reports produced by NAPAP had considerable impact on the 1990 Amendments.

Further, the Acid Precipitation Act of 1980 and the work of NAPAP provided the basis for much of the scientific and legal work to address acid rain following 1990.

Further Reading



Saundry, P. (2009). Acid Precipitation Act of 1980, United States. Retrieved from


To add a comment, please Log In.