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Air Quality Management in the United States
In theory, the SIP process contains mechanisms to enable EPA to ensure that all states are making continuous progress toward meeting the NAAQS.6 In practice, EPA’s authority for compliance is limited except in some of the most severe nonattainment areas, and even where it has the authority, it has at times—for lack of resources or other reasons—failed to promulgate the necessary requirements in a timely manner. Although states and other affected persons may file an “action forcing” citizen suit against EPA, that is an expensive and an unwieldy tool for ensuring that EPA attends to its responsibilities in a timely manner.
Addressing these issues will require two basic sets of actions: (1) transform the SIP into a comprehensive air quality management plan (AQMP), and (2) reform the planning and implementation process.
Transform the SIP into an AQMP
Looking forward, successful AQM in the United States requires significant changes in the scope and the implementation of the SIP process so that it places greater emphasis on performance and results and facilitates development of multipollutant strategies. The committee recommends that this change be accomplished by mandating that each state prepare an AQMP that integrates all relevant air quality measures and activities into a single, internally consistent plan. This change would involve the ultimate elimination of single-pollutant SIPs and their replacement by a single, comprehensive multipollutant AQMP.
Recognizing that the implementation of this recommendation will require a significant change in standard procedure at the federal, state, and local level, we further recommend that implementation, perhaps with incentives, occur in stages over a defined transition period. Currently, there are examples of local air quality agencies that are attempting to create such plans, most notably, that of the South Coast Air Quality Management District in California (SCAQMD 2000).
For states that fail to submit adequate plans or that fail adequately to implement approved plans, the statute specifies the consequences (for example, loss of most federal highway funds and two-for-one offset ratios for new sources) that must attend such failures. For states containing areas that fail to achieve the NAAQS by the statutory deadlines, the only consequence (with some modest exceptions for marginal, moderate, and serious O3 nonattainment areas) is a requirement that the state promulgate a new plan capable of meeting the relevant standard by a new 5-year deadline using “technologically achievable” extra measures. For states that fail to make rate-of-progress demonstrations toward attainment, there are no consequences, because EPA has failed for more than a decade to promulgate the necessary implementing regulations.