During the president’s time in office, no major environmental laws have been passed by Congress and forwarded for his signature. However, The New York Times recently noted that despite this major legislative stall, the president could leave behind a legacy characterized as the most “aggressive” and “far-reaching” of any president in terms of environmental policy.

These claims are lofty, especially when one considers the environmental protections associated with presidents like Theodore Roosevelt. However, there is merit to the claims that the Times makes. Despite a hostile congress, the president has worked diligently to expand the reach of current environmental law. Specifically, the president has focused significant energy on using the Clean Air Act of 1970 to justify a host of reforms.

The vice president of the American Lung Association recently noted in the Times that the Clean Air Act is “the granddaddy of public health and environmental legislation. It empowers the E.P.A. and states to be bold and creative.” The Obama administration has used the reach of this legislation to justify the implementation of numerous regulations related to carbon dioxide emissions, mercury exposure, soot and smog.

These last two focuses are of particular interest to Californians, as Southern California smog is some of the most concerning smog nationwide. Regulation of emissions that contribute to smog have affected businesses up and down the California coastline. It is important to note that the Supreme Court and Congress could roll-back some of the president’s efforts. But there is no denying that the nation’s air has been affected by Mr. Obama’s presence in the Oval Office.

Source: New York Times, “Obama Builds Environmental Legacy With 1970 Law,” Coral Davenport, Nov. 26, 2014