Washington does not have any areas designated nonattainment for a federal health-based air quality standard. Tacoma-Pierce County was redesignated to attainment in March 2015 and is in maintenance status for the 2006 daily PM2.5 standard.
What is nonattainment?
A nonattainment classification means that air quality in a particular region does not meet (or attain) a federal air quality standard. The federal Clean Air Act is the law that defines the U.S. Environmental Protection Agencys (EPA) responsibilities for safeguarding the nations air quality. Under the Clean Air Act, EPA sets limits on how much pollution can be in the air.
These pollution limits are called National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). There are NAAQS for six common air pollutants: particulate matter (also sometimes called PM2.5 and PM10, or particle pollution), ground-level ozone (O3), carbon monoxide (CO), sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NO2) and lead (Pb).
The Clean Air Act requires EPA to review its standards every five years to ensure they still effectively protect human health and the environment. EPA sets the standard based on scientific evidence, and is not allowed to consider the cost of pollution controls when setting them. The standards are based solely on health.
When an areas monitored air pollution exceeds the NAAQS a certain number of times, EPA designates it as a nonattainment area. This designation is determined by a formula that uses the number of times the standard is exceeded each year. The formula includes three years of data to ensure that an area isnt designated as nonattainment because of one unusual year. See Air Quality Designations.
What does nonattainment mean for an area?Nonattainment can:
Nonattainment areas that don't clean up their air pollution could receive cuts in federal transportation funding if new highway projects could add to the air pollution problem. And, EPA could withhold all or part of the grant funds it provides to the state to support air quality monitoring, planning, and control programs.
How does an area get redesignated from nonattainment into attainment?
It typically takes several years for an area to restore its attainment status. When an area is designated nonattainment, Ecology is required to develop a SIP and submit it to EPA within three years. A SIP is a plan for restoring air quality and bringing the area back into attainment status as quickly as possible. The SIP must define what actions will be taken to control air pollution, how these actions will lead to attainment, and project when air quality will meet the standard. EPA then evaluates the SIP for approval.
Once monitoring data show air quality has improved, the state can request that EPA redesignate an area from nonattainment to attainment. EPA can only approve this request if the following conditions are met:
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