Standards and Plans
Federal and state agencies set air quality standards for outdoor air. The purpose of these standards is to prevent air pollution from reaching levels that harm public health and welfare. When an area of a state does not meet a standard, the state must write a plan showing how it will clean up the air.
EPA sets standards for the entire country for air pollutants called criteria pollutants. These federal standards are called national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS). States monitor air quality in different areas to find out if the areas are meeting the NAAQS. The federal list of criteria pollutants are:
There are both national and state standards for most criteria pollutants. States and local clean air agencies may set standards at different levels than the federal levels for their areas. However, states and locals cannot set levels any higher than EPA. That is, state and local standards must be at least as protective as the federal levels. The only difference between the federal list and the Washington State list is that Washington does not have its own lead standard and EPA does not have a Total Suspended Particulate (TSP) Standard. To see a chart that compares these levels, click here.
When EPA sets or revises a national standard, Washington uses air monitoring data to determine if air quality in the state meets the new or revised standard. Based on this data, Washington can make recommendations to EPA about how to designate areas of the state. EPA will make the final decision about how to designate each area. Possible designations are:
The Federal Clean Air Act requires states to develop plans for protecting and maintaining air quality in all areas of the state. It also requires states to develop specific plans for bringing nonattainment areas back into attainment. The plans are called State Implementation Plans (SIPs). Learn more about SIPs and see SIP documents.
There are opportunities to give input, ask questions, and keep informed throughout the process of developing and maintaining plans. Some of the most recent opportunities to become involved are:
Copyright © Washington State Department of Ecology. See http://www.ecy.wa.gov/copyright.html.