The Association of Air Pollution Control Agencies (AAPCA) has released a new report, The Greatest Story Seldom Told: Profiles and Success Stories in Air Pollution Control. It says through the Clean Air Act’s framework of cooperative federalism, state and local air quality agencies "have made tremendous progress in virtually every measure of air pollution control."
Released ahead of Earth Day (April 22) and Air Quality Awareness Week (May 1 – 5), this publication catalogues these trends through publicly available data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies. It includes key metrics from concentrations of criteria pollutants like ground-level ozone and air releases of toxic chemicals to compliance/enforcement activity and operating permit renewals.
Where data sets allow state-to-state comparisons, the report highlights critical areas where the twenty states that serve on the AAPCA Board of Directors have provided leadership.
“Air quality has improved dramatically, and ambient air monitoring data continues to reveal the downward trend of air pollutants. It is, perhaps, the greatest story seldom told, and one that is certainly worth telling,” said AAPCA President Sean Alteri, Director of the Kentucky Division for Air Quality. “This report demonstrates that this progress has been driven by the hard-working state and local agency members of our Association, and we look forward to working with our federal partners to continue this pattern.”
According to Vice President Stuart Spencer of the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality: “AAPCA members, who have primary responsibility for air quality in parts of the country growing in population and economic activity, have demonstrated leadership across all key metrics of air quality success. The Greatest Story Seldom Told helps illustrate that, even under increasingly stringent national standards, these agencies are succeeding and innovating.”
Between 2005 and 2015, reported toxic air releases were down 56 percent, or more than 851 million pounds, and AAPCA Member States accounted for nearly two-thirds of the total reduction.
· In 2016, states performed full compliance evaluations for more than 14,500 facilities, 80 times the number conducted by U.S. EPA, and from 2010 to 2014, AAPCA Member States performed full compliance evaluations at nearly 47 percent of facilities annually, well ahead of the national average.
· According to U.S. EPA, AAPCA Member States in 2016 were more efficient in permitting, with only a 15 percent backlog for renewing Title V permits among states with more than 100 Title V sources.
· Between 2000 and 2015, AAPCA Member States saw nitrogen oxide emissions fall more rapidly than the national average.
· As of 2014, AAPCA Member States had reduced sulfur dioxide emissions in the power sector by more than 8 million tons compared to 1990.
· From 2000 to 2014, per capita energy-related carbon dioxide emissions were down 18.1 percent on average nationally, with AAPCA Member States averaging a 19.3 percent reduction.
· The U.S. has far exceeded international trends in air quality, with some of the lowest levels of average annual fine particulate matter and the largest reduction in carbon dioxide emissions in the world over the last decade.
Additionally, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) recently released the 2017 edition of The States’ View of the Air report. The report highlights the air quality in counties and cities in the United States. Like a report card, IDEM has graded areas on the state of their air quality under the federal standards for ozone and fine particles. You can find the full report here, and individual state reports here.
A few of the key statistics from The Greatest Story Seldom Told:
· As of 2015, combined emissions of the six criteria air pollutants for which there are national ambient air quality standards were down 71 percent since 1970.