December 30, 2015
The Environmental Protection Agency says it’s clear that Utah won’t be any closer to cleaning small-particulate pollution from its air by the end of December 2015, so it’s proposing to give the state extra time to pull together a plan to do so — in exchange for reclassifying the state’s failure to meet federal air-quality standards as “serious” according to a December 9, 2015 report from the Salt Lake Tribune.
Salt Lake City and other areas where levels of PM2.5 exceed federal health standards are currently considered “nonattainment” areas, and designation as a “serious nonattainment” area would require the state’s Division of Air Quality to develop a new, more stringent State Implementation Plan for addressing the pollution and to become more strict about how refineries and other industry are granted operating permits.
Utah would be the first state to be officially designated “serious” for PM2.5. Nonattainment areas are subject to such reclassification under the federal Clean Air Act, which also sets the time limit for meeting federal regulations — six years, in the case of particulate pollution.
Utah’s clock started in December 2009 when it was designated as being in nonattainment for PM2.5 levels. As the Dec. 31 deadline approaches, the EPA could choose to pursue “discretionary” reclassification, which would allow it to immediately declare Utah as “serious” and set custom deadlines for Utah’s new implementation plan; or it could simply wait for the six-year mark to pass, at which point Utah would by default become a serious nonattainment area and the usual 18-month deadline would be set.
Should Utah be reclassified as serious nonattainment, it will be required to submit the following items as part of a State Implementation Plan revision:
- Best available control measures (BACM) and Best available control technology (BACT) standards
- Modeling to ensure compliance no later than December 31, 2019
- Plan provisions that require reasonable further progress (RFP)
- Quantitative milestones to be achieved every three years
- Control requirements for major sources for PM2.5 precursors
- Emissions Inventory
- Contingency measures should the RFP fail
- Revisions to the Non-attainment New Source Review (NNSR) program to lower the major source threshold from 100 tpy to 70 tpy
What this means to you
Utah may become the first state to be officially designated “serious” for PM2.5. Nonattainment areas are subject to such reclassification under the federal Clean Air Act, which also sets the time limit for meeting federal regulations. Long term exposure to fine particle pollution is dangerous to human health.