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Economic History of the United States Since 1865

the manufactured gas industry began in British cities in 1812–1820. The technique used produced highly toxic effluent that was dumped into sewers and rivers. The gas companies were repeatedly sued in nuisance lawsuits. They usually lost and modified the worst practices. The City of London repeatedly indicted gas companies in the 1820s for polluting the Thames and poisoning its fish. Finally, Parliament wrote company charters to regulate toxicity.[146] The industry reached the US around 1850 causing pollution and lawsuits.[147]

In industrial cities local experts and reformers, especially after 1890, took the lead in identifying environmental degradation and pollution, and initiating grass-roots movements to demand and achieve reforms.[148] Typically the highest priority went to water and air pollution. The Coal Smoke Abatement Society was formed in Britain in 1898 making it one of the oldest environmental NGOs. It was founded by artist Sir William Blake Richmond, frustrated with the pall cast by coal smoke. Although there were earlier pieces of legislation, the Public Health Act 1875 required all furnaces and fireplaces to consume their own smoke. It also provided for sanctions against factories that emitted large amounts of black smoke. The provisions of this law were extended in 1926 with the Smoke Abatement Act to include other emissions, such as soot, ash, and gritty particles and to empower local authorities to impose their own regulations.