EPA Approves Ozone Plans for Areas in Extreme Nonattainment

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently approved the 8-hour ozone air quality plans for the two California areas with the worst air quality in the nation. These plans, known as State Implementation Plans, will enable San Joaquin Valley and South Coast to achieve the Clean Air Act’s 1997 8-hour ozone standard of 0.08 parts per million by 2024.

There have been vast improvements in air quality in California over the previous decades. The worst air quality locations in the SJV and SC have improved for ozone 6 percent and 23 percent, respectively, with many locations having even greater air quality improvements. 

“Air quality in the San Joaquin Valley and South Coast continues to improve, but much work remains in order to protect the millions of people who live and work in these areas,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “These plans will spur development of new technologies and will cut NOx emissions by almost 700 tons per day over the next twelve years and help reduce the number of cases of asthma and other respiratory ailments.”

Federal, State and District control measures will reduce emissions in these areas. In addition, both plans also rely on development and deployment of new and improved technologies to achieve clean air. The Clean Air Act allows areas, such as the SC and SJV that are classified as “extreme” nonattainment, to rely on new and improved technologies given the magnitude of the reductions needed to attain clean air.

Both the Districts and CARB have research, demonstration, and grant programs underway to identify and develop the needed technologies. The state will meet annually with EPA to discuss strategies to maximize the clean air benefits of emerging advanced technologies and to provide annual summaries of strategies and activities.

Ground-level ozone is formed when nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) react in the atmosphere in the presence of sunlight. NOx and VOCs are called ozone precursors. Motor vehicle exhaust, industrial emissions, and chemical solvents are the major sources of these chemicals. Ozone pollution is a concern especially when the weather conditions needed to form it—lots of sun and hot temperatures—occur. Ozone pollution can irritate airways, worsen asthma symptoms and increase hospitalizations for respiratory cases. Children and the elderly are most impacted by ozone pollution.

The action became effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

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