Air Quality Reporting Eased
The air quality in the TMACOG planning area hasn’t changed – we continue to meet current standards – but a change in U.S. EPA regulations has reduced some TMACOG reporting requirements.
Under the 1997 U.S. EPA ozone standard, the TMACOG region had a few measured events which exceeded that air quality regulation. We had some 8-hour periods showing ozone levels that exceeded the standard. Those violations made us an ozone non-attainment area (and later a maintenance area) and triggered rules that affected transportation planning. For many years, TMACOG was required to create the region’s long range transportation plan every four years and both the long range plan and the short range plan (the Transportation Improvement Program, or TIP) had to include an air quality conformity report. The conformity report is based on complex modeling that looks at how transportation infrastructure affects air quality. TMACOG needed to demonstrate that wider roads or new bridges would not cause the region to produce more transportation-related air emissions than allowable.
Now the 1997 standard has been revoked effective as of April, 2015 and we are now an ozone attainment area. The current regulation is the U.S. EPA 2008 National Ambient Air Quality Standard. Under the standard, and because the region has not had any violations of it since its enactment, TMACOG can create a long-range plan every five years rather than every four and no longer needs to include an air quality conformity report in any plans.
David Gedeon, TMACOG acting vice president of Transportation, said, “This is good news. We have had consistently healthy air quality and we no longer need to provide the complex modeling that we had done under the previous standard.” He added that the new standard is good for development. “Area economic development professionals can tell potential new businesses that the area is in attainment with all regulations. That means that a new business will not have to worry about more stringent permits, extra costs, and associated project delays.”
The next long range plan, the 2015-2045 Transportation Plan, is nearly complete and is expected to be completed on schedule this summer. The FY 2016-2019 TIP is also nearing approval. Both plans will be voted on by the Transportation Council May 6, and by the Board of Trustees June 17.