Idaho Environmental Guide for Local Governments: Nonattainment
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set limits on the amounts of certain pollutants that can safely be in our air. These limits are called the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).
EPA considers any geographic area that meets or has pollutant levels below the NAAQS to be in attainment. An area with persistent air quality problems is designated a nonattainment area. This means that the area has violated federal health-based standards for outdoor air pollution. Each nonattainment area is declared for a specific pollutant. Nonattainment areas for different pollutants may overlap or share common boundaries.
Why Communities Should Care
Failure to act on nonattainment status can result in a potential loss of federal highway funding for areas in nonattainment. If an area exceeds EPA's NAAQS for ground level ozone or fine particulate matter, local governments may be directly affected or have specific responsibilities such as implementing an emissions testing program.
When a project has the potential to contribute to poor air quality either directly (from facility emissions) or indirectly (from traffic) the community should understand those impacts for strategic planning.
What Communties Can Do
- Understand criteria pollutants affecting the area and assess projects for air pollutant issues prior to approval. EPA sets standards for six air pollutants called "criteria pollutants." Currently, two of these—ozone and particulate matter—could trigger nonattainment status in certain areas of Idaho.
- Plan ahead. These activities can reduce emissions of air toxics:
- Consider bike/walking paths, commuter lanes, public transportation, traffic light synchronization, limitations on sprawl, public bike racks, etc. when planning.
- Join the Idaho Clean Air Zone program and develop an anti-idling policy for community buildings and grounds.
- Consider using electric or manual lawn care equipment when caring for public grounds.
- Reduce grass areas by landscaping with native and water-tolerant plants.
- Check to see if it's a good air quality day before mowing, mow less often, and encourage community members to do the same.
- Use products that are free of or low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
- If contracting with a company for ground or building maintenance, consider including requirements in the contract about mowing less often, using less-polluting equipment, and using green products.
- Develop a policy that encourages employees to use alternative transportation, provide incentives if possible, allow employees to work alternative shifts, provide bike racks and locker rooms, and encourage employees not to idle in the parking lot.
- Keep vehicle fleets well-maintained and consider fuel economy when purchasing new fleet vehicles.
- Remind employees to avoid "topping off" the tank when fueling.
- Encourage employees to meet by conference calls, carpool, and drive efficiently.
- Local governments have the authority to implement ordinances that help prevent the release of pollutants such as ozone and particulate matter beyond state and federal laws and regulations. Determine what is best for the health and welfare of the community.