Get Involved with Your Local Air-Quality Process

Robert UkeileyBy ROBERT UKEILEY The Clean Air Act’s provisions for addressing ground-level ozone, commonly referred to as smog, present significant opportunities to transition our transportation sector to a cleaner, more efficient system in the short and medium term. The opportunities are greatest at the state or local/regional level. In general, the Clean Air Act (CAA) works this way: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets ambient air-quality standards. States and local/regional governmental entities then come up with measures to achieve those standards. EPA periodically reviews their own standards to see if scientific advances require revisions. Even when EPA makes an ambient air-quality standard more stringent, states and local/regional governments are still responsible for implementing the old standards as well as the new ones. For example, there is currently in effect a 1997 ozone ambient air-quality standard of effectively 85 parts per billion (ppb), and a 2008 ozone ambient air-quality standard of 75 ppb. EPA is now reevaluating the science and is likely to create a new ambient air-quality standard of between 60 and 70 ppb next year.

States and local/regional governments have made significant efforts to address the 1997 standard, but certain regions, especially Baltimore, Dallas, Houston and some areas in California, still have much to do. As to the 2008 ozone standards, states and local/regional governments are just beginning their work in earnest.

CAA contains mandatory provisions and opportunities for optional strategies to reduce ozone-causing pollution. For example, in areas with high ozone levels or long-standing ozone problems, CAA requires the plan to address ozone-remediation provisions such as clean fuel fleets and vehicle-miles-traveled reduction programs. However, even when there aren’t mandatory requirements, the cleanup plan can include measures like infrastructure or financial incentives for electric or plug-in hybrid cars, mass transit, ride sharing, telecommuting and pedestrian/bike-friendly measures. Get involved early with the local air pollution control agency, and advocate for such measures. That’s the way to increase the chances of success.

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