WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) is carefully evaluating the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposal to strengthen standards to address ground-level ozone pollution. These proposed standards would better protect the health and welfare of residents of the National Capital Region. Although this region has made tremendous progress in improving its air quality over several decades, the proposed regulations will require additional steps to control harmful emissions.
“We in the National Capital Region are proud of the improvements we have made to air quality in the region. However, the science tells us that a lower standard is needed to protect public health and welfare,” said David Snyder, Chairman of the Metropolitan Washington Air Quality Committee at COG. Mr. Snyder added that “MWAQC is committed to doing what needs to be done to meet the new standard. We realize that failure to do so would unnecessarily affect the health of our residents.
Ozone, a key component of smog, forms in the atmosphere when emissions of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds combine in sunshine. Ozone pollution can dangerously affect the health of those with asthma and other respiratory diseases, children, older adults and people who are active outdoors, especially outdoor workers.
The National Capital Region has made tremendous strides to improve its air quality. Working with the States of Maryland and Virginia and the District of Columbia, the region has been taking action to reduce emissions consistent with State Implementation Plans. This has led to the region having no Code Red air days over the last two years. Based on these improvements, the region is expected to meet the current 75 part per billion ozone standard. Additionally, the Region has reduced levels of other pollutants, such as fine particulate matter and carbon dioxide, to below the standards for those pollutants.
The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, through MWAQC, coordinates air quality planning activities among COG localities and the states and the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board; reviews policies; resolves policy differences; and adopts an air quality plan for transmittal to the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia.
MWAQC will assess what actions are needed to meet the new standards. The Committee will review actions taken to date, such as state and local actions to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds and reduce pollutants from our transportation systems, as well as national actions from existing and proposed federal rules such as the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, the Tier 3 Vehicle Emissions and Fuels Standards, requirements to reduce interstate transport of ozone, the Regional Haze Rule and the Heavy Duty Vehicle Rule. MWAQC will work with the States and District of Columbia to develop State Implementation Plans for any new requirements needed to meet the new standard.
EPA is also proposing updates to the Air Quality Index for ozone. COG and MWAQC will evaluate the new AQI and will reflect these changes in its Clean Air Alerts. Additional information on air quality alerts is available through Clean Air Partners at http://www.cleanairpartners.net/.