The Metropolitan Washington Air Quality Committee (MWAQC) approved a plan showing the region complies with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fine particle pollution standard and detailing how officials will maintain the region’s air quality progress.
The PM 2.5 Maintenance Plan, which was approved at yesterday’s Committee meeting, features air quality data and emissions inventories that outline future reductions in fine particle pollution, a mixture of microscopic pollutants that can cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems. At 2.5 microns in diameter, fine particles can get deep into lungs and even the bloodstream.
“I am very pleased that the Metropolitan Washington Air Quality Committee will finally get recognition for the region’s progress in reducing fine particle pollution,” said MWAQC Chair Leta Mach, who is a City of Greenbelt Councilmember. “By approving the plan, MWAQC has taken the final step in getting official recognition of the region’s progress in cleaning up the air.”
The Maintenance Plan also details future pollution control strategies as well as how the air quality levels affect regional transportation planning. The plan sets the maximum amount of emissions for vehicles out to 2025; therefore, projects in the region’s transportation plans cannot produce emissions above this level.
In 2005, EPA ruled that metropolitan Washington had not met its standard for reducing fine particle air pollution. Since that time, area officials have worked together through MWAQC to comply with the standard through a variety of actions, such as reducing emissions from power plants, passenger vehicles, and heavy-duty, diesel engines, improving energy efficiency, and increasing wind and clean energy purchases and green building construction.
In Fairfax County, the Virginia Electric Power Company’s Possum Point Power Station switched from coal to natural gas in 2004, which has significantly reduced pollutants. In Maryland, Mirant Mid-Atlantic agreed to cap emissions at plants in Dickerson in Montgomery County, Chalk Point in Prince George’s County, and Morgantown in Charles County as part of the Maryland Healthy Air Act. Mirant (then GenOn) closed its coal-fired plant in Alexandria in 2012. In the same year, Pepco closed its Benning Road Generating Station in D.C. which was powered by two large, oil-fired turbines.
MWAQC, which is staffed by the Council of Governments, coordinates air quality planning in the National Capital Region. Its members include area elected officials, environmental directors, and state air management and transportation officials.
To view the PM 2.5 Maintenance Plan and Redesignation Request, click here.