Puget Sound region meeting all federal air quality standards

Good air quality news for the region:  We’re in attainment for all pollutants regulated by the federal government, including ozone and carbon monoxide.

Washington is the second most populous state in the country (after North Carolina) currently attaining all federal air quality standards.

Washington is the second most populous state in the country (after North Carolina) currently attaining all federal air quality standards.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sets federal standards for a number of air pollutants.

If an area exceeds the standard, EPA can designate it as “nonattainment.” After a period of meeting the standard, an area can apply for attainment status, and a 20-year maintenance period begins.

After the 20-year maintenance period, metropolitan planning organizations such as PSRC are no longer required to track transportation emissions for the pollutant.

Carbon Monoxide

Improvements to vehicle technology have contributed to the dramatic decline in carbon monoxide emissions in the region.

On October 21, the region will successfully complete a 20-year maintenance period and PSRC will no longer have to track carbon monoxide in its transportation conformity modeling.


EPA revised the ozone standard to a more stringent level in 2015. The region has been monitoring levels to see if we would be out of attainment to the new standard.

So far the region is meeting the new standard, and the Department of Ecology is starting to work with the EPA to formalize our attainment status.

Other pollutants

The region continues to hold steady on other pollutants and is currently meeting all other standards.

For more detail, check out this summary of Regional Air Quality Status.



Region meeting air quality standards for ozone

Ozone is often an air quality concern on hot days like we’ve had recently. But data from the last few years shows that the region is having success in meeting tightened federal standards for ozone.

photo of blue sky with white clouds

By remaining in compliance with state and federal air quality standards, the region can continue to receive federal funds for transportation.

While ozone gas is essential in the Earth’s upper atmosphere to protect us from UV rays, it’s a different story at ground level where it acts as a pollutant harmful to human health.  Bad ozone is formed when hot sun reacts with emissions from cars and other sources.

In a recent recommendation to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the state Department of Ecology has proposed that all areas in Washington should be classified as in “attainment” with the ozone standard, or are unclassifiable due to insufficient monitoring data.

Ecology is asking for public comment on the recommendation through September 16.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sets national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) to protect public health and the environment.

All of the monitors show ozone levels below the 70 ppm standard from EPA.

All of the monitoring sites show ozone levels below the 70 parts per billion standard from EPA. (Source: Washington Dept. of Ecology)

PSRC has a role in ensuring healthy air quality in the region. Under federal and state regulations, PSRC is required to demonstrate that the long-range metropolitan transportation plan, Transportation 2040, and the Transportation Improvement Program conform to the State Implementation Plan (SIP) for Air Quality.


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Proposed National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed strengthened air quality standards for ozone in November, which could put the central Puget Sound region out of compliance with federal regulations.

Information on the region’s air quality, upcoming issues and ongoing work related to air quality and climate change by both PSRC and PSCAA will be presented to the board in December.

Information on the region’s air quality, upcoming issues and ongoing work related to air quality and climate change by both PSRC and PSCAA will be presented to the board in December.

Ground level ozone is caused by a reaction  between oxides of nitrogen and volatile organic compounds in sunlight. The major sources are emissions from industry, vehicles, and chemicals. Ground level ozone is associated with health risks and compromises vegetation.

The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency will present the current status of air quality in the region, upcoming issues to be addressed related to the potential change in standards, and its 2014-20 strategic plan to the Transportation Policy Board on Thursday, December 11, 2014.

See the full agenda here and watch the meeting live here.


Governor Inslee on carbon emissions: Year for action

The Governor’s Carbon Emissions Reduction Taskforce issued its final report today.


Governor Inslee met with his Carbon Emissions Reduction Task Force at Seattle City Hall today

The Governor said the report sets the stage for action.

He observed that 100 years from now historians will trace the state’s actions on climate change to the recommendations made today.

The brief report evaluates the attributes of a new carbon tax and/or a cap and trade program in reducing carbon emissions.

It recommended special attention to the design of policy details regardless of which path the state might take.

A 2008 state law limits greenhouse gas emissions within the state.


A chart in today’s report shows that the state has a long way to go to achieve legal limits on greenhouse gases

That law anticipated of a state cap and trade program, which the legislature rebuffed a year later.

Governor Inslee’s upcoming climate proposal is one of the most widely anticipated policy moves in the run-up to the 2015 state legislature, which will begin a 105-day regular session on January 12th.

Air quality in Pierce County improving

Good news for residents and businesses in Pierce County: Air quality is getting better and the area now meets a federal air pollution standard, according to a plan being submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency.


Tacoma and Pierce County violated the federal air standard for fine particles from 2006-2008.

The fine particle pollution is primarily caused from residents burning wood to heat homes during winter.

Puget Sound Clean Air Agency worked closely with the state Ecology department and a community task force to reduce wintertime particle pollution.

Ecology is now asking for comments on the air pollution plan through October 3, 2014 and at a public hearing on September 30.

EPA requires Ecology and Puget Sound Clean Air Agency to submit a revision (a plan) to the State Implementation Plan.

The plan shows the improvement in air quality in Tacoma and Pierce County, and outlines how to maintain and continue to decrease fine particle pollution in the area.

Find out more on Ecology’s website.

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Oh, say can you see…what you are breathing?

Today’s guest post comes from Craig Kenworthy, Executive Director of the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency

PSCAA graphic

In the central Puget Sound region, air quality is driven by hundreds of thousands of individual choices we all make about how to get ourselves and the things we use around and the way we heat our homes.

For example, wintertime air pollution in the Tacoma-Pierce County area consists of 50% residential wood smoke, while industrial sources make up only 10%.

That fine particle pollution is so small that it can pass through the lungs and even into the bloodstream, causing heart attacks and strokes.

The orange and yellow areas show the location of the highest ozone pollution.

In the summer, the region’s ozone or “smog” levels are literally driven by what and how we drive. Ozone forms when vehicle emissions mix with enough heat and sunlight to form a chemical reaction.

Because of that and the region’s prevailing winds, it is generally people to east of those emissions who experience the highest pollution levels.

The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency maintains a network of 13 air pollution monitoring stations throughout King, Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish counties. Data collected from these monitors helps inform daily air quality forecasts.

The agency also uses this information to help people make the connections between air quality, health, and their own actions. I invite you to learn more about air quality issues at our website.


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