The Metropolitan Washington Air Quality Committee (MWAQC), the regional air quality planning committee in the Washington, DC-MD-VA nonattainment area, recently voted to approve a regional plan that it will submit to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a step toward complying with federal clean air.
“There’s much more to do, but this vote is an important step toward cleaner air, while continuing to allow transportation improvements,” said Phil Mendelson, chair of MWAQC and member of the D.C. Council.
The plan, called a state implementation plan (SIP), uses new models and improved data to provide a more accurate estimate of pollutants from motor vehicles and travel demand in the region. MWAQC will submit a revised plan in March 2004 which will include further updated data and additional requirements in order to gain EPA approval.
MWAQC officials said they are making good progress toward improving the region’s air quality. MWAQC is taking the interim step of submitting a plan this month so that regional transportation planning may proceed on schedule. The plan includes a long list of existing controls to reduce pollution locally and that which is transported to other areas. The plan approved today also includes five new control measures designed to reduce volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the air, which contribute to forming ozone and affect the respiratory health of area residents:
- Reformulating 80 types of consumer products (i.e., non-stick cooking spray, air freshener, anti-perspirant, windshield washer fluid)
- Designing criteria to reduce evaporation and spillage from portable fuel containers(e.g., gas cans may have only one opening, must close automatically)
- Reducing VOC content of various types of architectural and industrial maintenance coatings (i.e., paint, shellac, lacquer, primer, enamel)
- Reducing VOC content of mobile equipment repair and refinishing materials (e.g., auto body paint requires more efficient paint application and cleaning of spray guns)
- Regulating technology level and operation of machines used to clean metal parts (i.e., electronic components or auto parts)
Under federal law, the air quality plan must establish a ceiling, or budget, which places a cap on mobile emissions. This requires transportation planners to analyze all proposed improvements to the transportation system in future years and ensure that emissions will not exceed the budget set in the SIP. EPA will approve the plan if the budget is consistent with attainment goals for 2005.
Last July, the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia determined that the EPA had exceeded its authority in extending the region’s deadline for meeting air quality standards to 2005 without also reclassifying the region. The ruling resulted in the EPA announcing a change of status for the region from serious to severe nonattainment.
At the meeting, MWAQC committed to evaluating additional control measures that could benefit the region in the long term. Although the region’s deadline for meeting the one-hour ozone standard is 2005, EPA will designate nonattainment areas for a tougher ozone standard (eight hours) next spring. “The region is committed to reducing pollution by adopting new measures for meeting both the one-hour and the eight-hour ozone standards,” said Mendelson.