New Programs Help Clean Region's Air

May 25, 2005

Members of the Metropolitan Washington Air Quality Committee (MWAQC) of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) are sharing innovative local programs as part of a to help clean the region’s air.

A special strategic planning session on May 25 highlighted eight inventive programs adopted by cities and counties to help reduce air pollution. These programs, currently active in the District of Columbia, Montgomery County, Arlington County, Fairfax County and Prince George’s County include:

  • Environmental Partners Program
  • Clean Diesel Technology
  • Cooperative Wind Energy Purchasing
  • Green Buildings Incentives
  • Engine Idling Enforcement
  • Energy Efficient Traffic Signals
  • Tree Canopy Program
  • Air Quality Action Days Policies

Today’s meeting was the first of three special strategic planning sessions intended to foster information sharing and brainstorming among the region’s jurisdictions as they work together to improve air quality for local residents. Some of the innovative programs discussed are part of the metropolitan Washington region’s current regional air quality plan for the region, while others are being proposed for a new plan due to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by December 2007.

“I hope this will be a way to help jurisdictions implement some of these programs,” said Nancy Floreen, MWAQC Vice Chair and Montgomery County Council Member. “We’ll see what we can collectively develop now that we have items to take back to our respective jurisdictions.”

Local jurisdictions are voluntarily initiating policies and programs that aim to reduce the formation of pollutants such as soot and ozone that contaminate the air. A Fairfax County emissions reduction program, for instance, has successfully retrofitted nearly 600 diesel school and transit buses. The program is anticipated to decrease emissions by 25 percent, reduce fuel needs by 73,000 gallons each year and save $138,000 annually. In Montgomery and Arlington counties, tree planting is being proposed to increase the area’s tree canopy as a way to absorb ozone, particles, and other airborne pollutants. The District of Columbia, meanwhile, has begun enforcing a new policy that penalizes tour buses and trucks that let their engines idle for more than three minutes during summer months, when ground-level ozone most often forms. Ozone, the main ingredient in urban and regional smog, is created when air pollutants from a variety of sources react in sunlight.

Dana Kauffman, MWAQC Chair and Fairfax County Supervisor, said counties and cities in the Washington region deserve credit for adopting innovative programs to reduce air pollution. MWAQC is the agency responsible for developing a regional plan – known as the State Implementation Plan -- to meet national air quality standards by 2010. 

 
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