Articles on Air Quality

 

SMOG CHECK: EPA IMPLEMENTS THE 2008 OZONE STANDARDS

Air Quality

This week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took two next steps toward the implementation of the 2008 air quality standards for ground-level ozone, which is commonly referred to as smog: it finalized designations for every area of the country, with the exception of the Chicago-Naperville and Illinois-Indiana-Wisconsin area and issued a final rule relating to such designations. 

Before we get into the details of EPA’s actions, a bit of background… The Clean Air Act (CAA) requires EPA to set National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone, the main component in smog, and five other pollutants considered harmful to public health and the environment. The law further requires EPA to review these standards every five years. As required by the CAA, in March 2008, EPA issued a new NAAQS for ground level ozone of 0.075 parts per million (ppm).  Later in 2009, EPA announced that it was initiating a rulemaking that would reconsider this standard, primarily to bring it in line with the recommendation of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC), which was in the 0.060 to 0.070 ppm range. However, as we reported, in September of 2011, citing the economic downturn and the fact that it will be revised again in 2013 as part of the CAA’s five year policy, President Obama announced that he would put this rulemaking on hold and later that same month, EPA said that it would move forward with implementation of the 2008 standard of 0.075 ppm.

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Cabazon Band of Mission Indians Agrees to Air Quality Rules

Air Quality

In a landmark agreement, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) reached a “government-to-government” agreement with the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians to enforce some of the SCAQMD’s air quality regulations on tribal land. 

The SCAQMD is the air pollution control agency for all of Orange County and the urban portions of Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, but does not have jurisdiction over tribal lands. Under the agreement announced yesterday, the tribe has voluntarily agreed to allow the SCAQMD inspectors to conduct air sampling, monitoring and inspection activities on the 640-acre Cabazon Resource Recovery Park industrial park near Mecca. It also requires facilities operating within the park, including Western Environmental Inc., to comply with applicable SCAQMD rules. The agreement will also allow the SCAQMD to enforce permits issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to facilities operating within the park.

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Environmental Groups Bring Suit Against EPA to Require Air Monitoring Along So-Cal Freeways

Air Quality

On Tuesday, the Natural Resources Defense Counsel (NRDC), Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles and Communities for a Better Environment brought a suit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for EPA’s approval of the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s (SCAQMD) 2011 Annual Air Quality Monitoring Network Plan on November 1, 2011 (the Air Monitoring Plan). 

The SCAQMD is the air pollution control agency for all of Orange County and the urban portions of Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.  The Air Monitoring Plan describes the network of ambient air quality monitors within the SCAQMD’s jurisdiction (click here for the final plan).  Federal law requires EPA to review the Air Monitoring Plan annually to identify the need to make any changes to the air monitoring requirements. 

Although the environmental groups’ opening brief is not due until the end of March, according to NRDC’s press release, the focus of the suit will be that EPA violated the Clean Air Act by approving the Air Monitoring Plan even though it does not require air quality monitoring along Southern California freeways.  NRDC contends that such monitoring is necessary to “better inform the local air district about the hazardous levels of particulate air pollution, and to arm them with the information necessary to take action to protect the region’s residents.”  The environmental groups are seeking the installation of air monitors along the region’s highways.

Cali Leads Clean Car Revolution Again: Comprehensive Advanced Clean Car Rules Announced

Air Quality

CarsTrucksThe car-obsessed culture in California has driven (ha ha!) agencies to address the issues of climate change and air quality in more frequent, increasingly stringent and multi-faceted ways. In the latest round of regulation aimed at tackling these ever-present issues, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has announced a package of proposed new rules which it hopes will deliver cleaner air, slash greenhouse gases (GHGs) and rapidly increase numbers of zero-emissions vehicles. The comprehensive Advanced Clean Car program has been in the works for three years and unites the goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the emission of smog-producing pollutants into one single group of rules for cars and light trucks from 2015 through 2025.

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A Park with a View: EPA Sets Schedule to Improve Visibility at National Parks

Air Quality

Smog1Last week the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in an effort to resolve ongoing litigation under the Clean Air Act with environmental groups over dozens of past due state implementation plans (SIP), agreed to a schedule for taking action on more than 40 state plans aimed at lowering haze in national parks and wilderness areas.

Regional haze, the visibility impairment produced by a multitude of sources and activities that emit fine particles and their precursors across a broad geographic area, has decreased the average visual range in western national parks from 140 miles to 35 to 90 miles, and in eastern parks, from 90 miles to 15 to 25 miles. To address this problem, EPA promulgated regulations in 1999 requiring states to develop and submit SIPs to improve visibility in 156 national parks and wilderness areas, including the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and Shenandoah Valley. These plans, which focus on reducing harmful pollution from large, older stationary sources, such as power plants, cement plants and large industrial boilers, were due in December 2007. In January 2009, EPA found that the majority of states had failed to submit their regional haze plans, in full or in part, and in August 2011, the National Parks Conservation Association and Sierra Club, among others, initiated litigation in federal Court to end the on-going delay.

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EPA Rule on Carbon Monoxide Adds New Monitoring Requirement for Metropolitan Roadways, but Standards Will Stay the Same

Air Quality

CarsTrucksThe Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its final rule this week affirming the current national air quality limits for carbon monoxide (CO), which describe how much of the pollutant is acceptable in outside air. EPA’s statement said the agency, after a careful review of the science, determined that the current standards for the pollutant protect the public health, including those who are most susceptible to the gas. For a more detailed explanation of EPA’s decision click here.
While finding existing limits for carbon monoxide are strong enough, EPA did alter its monitor siting requirements for large urban areas, increasing its focus on transportation routes. The agency will now require carbon monoxide monitors placed near roads in 52 urban areas around the country. Urban areas having populations of 1 million or more persons must have one near-road monitor operational by January 1, 2017. Near-road monitors required for urban areas having 2.5 million or more persons must be operational by January 1, 2015.

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Goodbye Perc, Hello Green Dry Cleaning: EPA approves California regulations banning PERC by 2023

Air Quality

Dry CleanersThis week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its approval of California’s regulations banning the use of perchloroethylene (also known as perc and tetrachloroethylene) in dry cleaning operations by 2023. EPA is required to regulate the use of perc by dry cleaners pursuant to the Clean Air Act. However, its approval of California’s rules means the replacement of EPA’s federal regulations with the state’s more stringent ones and sends California on its way to becoming the first perc-free dry cleaning state.
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The Clean Air Act Turns 40

Air Quality

Today is the 40th year anniversary of the passage of the Clean Air Act. This landmark legislation, which Congress revised and expanded in 1990, provides the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with the authority to regulate air pollutant emissions. EPA is celebrating the Clean Air Act’s anniversary today, by touting the health and environmental benefits achieved under the act over the past 40 years. According to EPA, these achievements include significant health benefits to children, improved air quality and public health, cleaner cars, trucks and transportation, combating acid rain, cleaner power plants, reducing industrial toxic air pollution, and reducing skin cancer by protecting the ozone layer.

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EPA Issues Major New Rules for Stationary Diesel Engines

Air Quality

On Feb. 17, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued the first new emission guidelines for stationary diesel engines. The final rules, which were years in the making and closely watched by the industry, may affect as many as 900,000 small diesel engines used primarily in agricultural and industrial activities to generate electricity for compressors and pumps.

According to the EPA, the new rules are designed to cut toxic emissions and safeguard public health by cutting down on heart attacks, asthma and respiratory diseases caused by diesel engine emissions. Specifically, the rules seek to cut emissions of formaldehyde, benzene, acrolein and other air pollutants suspected to cause cancer and other health problems.

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New Rule Adds New Hurdles to Development

Air Quality

The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) is considering a new rule that would create an unprecedented, additional new hurdle for real estate development in Southern California. In addition to the already cumbersome and protracted local land use permitting process every major development must navigate, the District’s proposed SCAQMD Rule 2301 would impose a new, required approval process that has the potential to constrain the size of new real estate projects and further prolong the project approval process. (Click here to read.)

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