The Delaware Valley Citizens’ Council for Clean Air (now known as Clean Air Council) was formed in 1967 through the efforts of 11 local, county-based Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware Tuberculosis and Health Associations (later to be known as Lung Associations). Each of the Associations recognized that while air pollution was a threat to health, it was a problem that demanded a region-wide solution. From its inception, the Council was intended to represent the interests of the Associations at a regional level. All of the Associations committed a portion of their Christmas Seals proceeds to fund the new organization.
Initially the Council was a two-person operation with an annual budget of about $22,000 just trying to promote its name to the public. It worked with the City of Philadelphia to organize the first regional “Cleaner Air Week” and it distributed reporting forms for community members to fill out if they had complaints about air pollution. Its first major advocacy action included successfully getting Southeastern Pennsylvania, Southern New Jersey, and Northern Delaware to be designated as one “air pollution control region,” which is still true today.
By the mid-1970s the Council had made a name for itself as the result of two major achievements: 1) winning a lawsuit against Pennsylvania for failing to implement a vehicle emissions inspection program and 2) establishing and distributing a regional air quality index report. While its programmatic focus expanded from air pollution to include solid waste, transportation, and energy, the Council’s budget and staff size only showed a modest increase.
The Council gained widespread notoriety during the 1980s when it fought toe-to-toe with Pennsylvania for refusing to implement vehicle emissions inspections. By the end of 1982, the Council had successfully obtained a court contempt judgment against Pennsylvania, which stood to lose $495 million in federal highway funding, as a result. Ultimately, Pennsylvania gave in. Along with its success in the courts, the Council increased its name recognition by organizing its first 5K Run for Clean Air in Philadelphia, in which 200 runners participated. Programmatically, the Council established an indoor air information resource center in response to public demand for information. It helped Philadelphia pass both the Worker and Community Right to Know and mandatory curbside recycling laws.
Throughout the 1990s and into the present day, the Council has flourished. In 1991 the Council amicably broke off formal affiliation with its founders, the Lung Associations, and truly became an independent entity. It legally changed its name to the present day “Clean Air Council.” Notable accomplishments included forming Community Energy, Inc., which was responsible for bringing the first wind farm to Pennsylvania; establishing the Philadelphia Port Environmental Task Force; and starting an active community outreach team, which has significantly grown the Council’s membership base. The Council also expanded its work to address global climate change, tobacco smoke pollution, and children’s environmental health. Today the Council boasts more than 8,000 members, a $1.1 million annual budget and 20 staff members.
About the Clean Air Council
The Clean Air Council is a member-supported, nonprofit environmental organization dedicated to protecting everyone's right to breathe clean air. The Council works through public education, community advocacy, and government oversight to ensure enforcement of environmental laws.
The Council was founded in 1967 by a group of forward-looking community leaders, policy makers, and progressive business leaders. Headquartered in