Recent News Articles
EPA honors Maricopa County Rapid Response Notification Sys.
September 20, 2012 - [Washington D.C] The Maricopa County
Air Quality Department has been recognized by the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] as one of 11
recipients in the nation during the 12th Annual
Clean Air Excellence Awards.
The Air Quality Department was recognized for its Rapid
Response Notification System, developed last year to provide
immediate alerts when any station in the air monitoring
network detects elevated levels of particulate pollution.
Once alerted, businesses, residents and partnering agency
stakeholders can help to maintain compliance with air
quality standards by stabilizing loose dirt in their
respective area or even halting dust-generating operations
during an alert period. This public-private partnership
effort involves over 5020 participants to date.
“We are honored to receive an EPA Clean Air Excellence Award
for our Rapid Response Notification System,” said Air
Quality Department Director Bill Wiley. “We would like to
thank our partners for their support of the Rapid Response
program. This collaboration improves our air and protects
the health of our community.”
The EPA explains the 12th annual Clean Air
Excellence Awards recognize innovative programs that protect
Americans' health and the environment, educate the public,
serve their communities and stimulate the economy.
“The 42-year history of the Clean Air Act is all about
meeting challenges through commitment and innovation,” said
Gina McCarthy, EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of
Air and Radiation. “The contributions of this year’s award
winners are continuing the Clean Air Act’s progress in
benefiting public health, our communities and the economy.”
The awards program, established in 2000 at the
recommendation of the Clean Air Act Advisory Committee,
annually recognizes entries that help reduce air pollution,
provide a model for others to follow and offer innovative,
This year’s award recipients were selected from 78
applicants and represent achievements in six categories:
clean air technology, community action, education outreach,
regulatory/policy innovations, transportation efficiency
innovations, and the Gregg Cooke Visionary Program Award.
Award winners are:
Clean Air Technology
ReNew Air Scrubber Technology, Diversey Incorporated,
Frazier Courtyard Homes, Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity,
Electric Vehicle Ecosystem Pilot Project, City and County of
Free Zoo & Trolley Too!, Rhode Island Public Transit
Authority, Providence, R.I.
Conservation and Climate Change Challenge, Broward County,
InnerTribal Beat, Spokane Tribal Air Quality Program and
KYRS Community Radio, Spokane, Wash.
Rapid Response Notification System, Maricopa County Air
Quality Department, Maricopa County, Ariz.
GHG Emissions Reduction Projects, Frito-Lay,
Incorporated-Beloit, Beloit, Wis.
Transportation Efficiency Innovations
Leadership in Reducing Ocean-going vessel Emissions, Maersk
Line/Maersk Agency USA, Charlotte, N.C.
Climate Initiatives Program, Metropolitan Transportation
Commission of San Francisco Bay Area, San Francisco, Calif.
Gregg Cooke Visionary Program Award
SC Johnson Global Sustainability Program, SC Johnson,
Entries are judged by EPA and the Clean Air Act Advisory
committee, and winners are recognized with a certificate at
an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.
Sign up for a Rapid Response
Notification on the Air Quality Department’s website
Article taken from:
Author Scott Turow wrote "Presumed
Innocent" while riding the "L" train
to his job as an attorney in Chicago
— and it became a huge best-seller
and a movie. Certainly you should be
able accomplish something during
those long hauls to and from the
office, right? Yet for most of us,
commuting remains a daily grind that
seems to add up to nothing but hours
lost and frustration gained. Why not
reclaim this precious time by doing
something useful — and not just
catching up on your work emails?
The trick, as with most things, is
adjusting your attitude. Try to
start thinking of your commute as
not just a chore, but an opportunity
for solo time that you can use as
you wish — something that's in short
supply when you're a working parent.
Whether you travel by train, bus or
car, you can make a resolution to
use that time more effectively ...
and make it work for you. Here are
some ideas to help you on your way:
1. Drink your breakfast.
Multitask (and avoid the pitfalls of
a stop at the coffee shop) by having
a healthy breakfast on the road.
Start a power smoothie the night
before: Put yogurt, fresh or frozen
fruit, protein or green powder, and
juice in your blender jar and tuck
it into the fridge. In the morning,
just hit blend, pour your smoothie
into a travel cup, and go.
2. Learn in the car. Instead
of just turning on the same old
music or audio books, think about
what you'd like to know more about
and listen strategically during your
commute. (After all, you'll never
have time to read all this stuff at
home!) Podcasts, like those on NPR,
offer enlightening information on
everything from science to
literature to pop culture — all in
commute-size bites. Dip into an
audio book by a stimulating author
you've always heard about but never
read, like Eckhart Tolle or Seth
Godin, or test drive how-to books on
anything from home repair to
3. Phone old friends. Never
have time to catch up with your old
office mate from San Francisco or
your sister in Maine? Make a plan so
it's on both of your calendars, then
enjoy a leisurely kid-free
conversation by chatting on a good
hands-free device. You'll walk into
work feeling connected and pleased.
4. Be present. On family road
trips, parents often complain that
their kids never look at the scenery
because their noses are buried in
books or handheld devices. Don't
fall victim to the same behavior as
a grown-up! Take time to look out
the window, breathe and notice
people and places along your
commute. If you're driving, try a
slightly different route now and
then to mix things up. Take time to
let your mind wander and to think
about your surroundings and your
place in them.
5. Be crafty. If you've ever
given a passing thought to knitting,
embroidery or hand-sewing, now's
your chance. Needlecrafts are
perfect for train or bus rides, and
they can have a relaxing, meditative
quality. Plus, you could end up with
an assortment of cute knitted hats
for your kids or embroidered onesies
for those upcoming baby showers!
6. Start a carpool club. If
you often car- or vanpool with the
same people, choose one day per week
where you'll all discuss something
of interest to all of you — and that
does not mean complaining about your
co-workers! If you're all big
readers, form a carpool book club,
where your monthly "meetings" are on
the way to work. Or talk in depth
about any subject you all deem
riveting: personal investing,
hiking, foreign films, good trips to
take with kids, or simply the most
recent episode of "Mad Men."
7. Write it down. Use your
bus or train time to enjoy the
old-fashioned pleasures of writing
longhand. Invest in some nice
stationery and/or a leather-bound
journal for the express purpose of
writing during your commute. Write
an unexpected letter to an old
friend or your mom, send thank-you
notes to people who have helped you
recently, rediscover the art of
journaling, or yes — take notes for
your genius screenplay or novel. (If
Scott Turow can do it, why not you?)
Maricopa County won't have to impose stricter air rules
McKinnon - May. 1, 2012 05:29 PM
The Republic |
exceeds the new federal limit on ozone pollution, but is
close enough to complying that it won't be required to
impose stricter rules on motorists or industries, the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday.
The finding was
part of the EPA's long-awaited decision on which U.S. cities
and counties violated the ozone limit, which was actually
established in 2008 but put on hold while the Obama
administration considered an even more restrictive standard.
report: The Air We Breathe
only the Phoenix metropolitan area, which includes most of
Maricopa County and a small part of Pinal County, was listed
as out of compliance with the new limit. But the EPA
classified Phoenix as a "marginal" violator, which means the
region is among the cities and counties closest to meeting
health-based standard is now 75 parts per billion; it had
been 80 parts per billion.
If the EPA had
classified Phoenix as "moderate" or worse, state and county
officials would have been required to produce a plan that
outlined additional measures to reduce ozone pollution or
face federal sanctions, such as restrictions on federal
think this is a good thing," said Bill Wiley, director of
the Maricopa County Air Quality Department. "That said, we
still have our challenges. We still have days where we
exceed the health-based standards and it's on those days we
need everyone to do their part."
exceeded the ozone standard at at least one monitor on 23
days last year and on 10 days in 2010. But when measured on
an annual average, ozone levels have decreased from 88 parts
per billion in 2000 to 77 parts per billion last year,
according to county air quality data.
measures compliance using air-monitor readings based on
daily eight-hour periods, then averaged over three years.
The agency used readings from 2008, 2009 and 2010 to
determine the status of each city or county.
ozone, the primary component of smog, forms when heat and
sunlight react with nitrogen oxides and volatile organic
compounds. Vehicle exhaust, gasoline fumes and industrial
pollution can contribute to ozone.
damages lung tissues and can sicken people and shorten
lives. It is especially harmful to children and people with
existing respiratory ailments.
park-and-ride lot usage runs 55%
Michael Clancy - Apr. 20, 2012 01:07 PM
The Republic | azcentral.com
Transit Department has released new usage
statistics for its seven park-and-ride lots
around the city.
city's 3,337 park-and-ride spaces were
filled to about 55 percent capacity December
through February, with approximately 1,750
users a day.
show that the most-used park-and-ride lot
for those months was the one at 79th Avenue
and Interstate 10 in west Phoenix, which is
the second-largest lot in the city and has
607 parking spaces. It was filled to an
average of 70 percent of capacity daily, or
about 425 cars a day.
lot was the one at Bell Road and Interstate
17 in north Phoenix. With just 350 parking
spaces, it was filled up to 90 percent of
capacity on average and was almost
completely full during January, when 338
cars parked there daily.
well-used lot, in terms of number of
vehicles parked there, was the one at Pecos
Road and 40th Street in Ahwatukee. It is the
largest lot in the system, with 906 spaces.
An average of 425 cars parked there, leaving
usage at less than 50 percent.
park-and-ride lots in northeast Phoenix
showed less usage.
In the lot with
377 spaces at Bell Road and Arizona 51,
there was an average of 215 cars, filling it
to about 60 percent of its capacity.
Boulevard and Arizona 51, usage was even
less. The lot has 370 spaces, and an average
of 160 cars a day, or less than 45 percent
of capacity, parked there.
Phoenix, the lot at Happy Valley Road and
I-17, with 512 spaces, filled to less than
half of its capacity on average for the
three months with about 225 cars a day.
Metrocenter, about 150 cars a day used the
215-space lot, filling it to about 70
The lots are
used by commuters, typically those who want
to catch an express bus to work in downtown
officials say they use the numbers for
April, 2008, Page 233
theory, Welch has the most privileged views of anyone in the
Valley. From 3,000 or 4,000 feet, it should be possible to
see the entire sprawling metropolitan area laid out like a
street atlas – from the southeastern reaches of Queen Creek
to the northwestern limits of Sun City West. But the air is
frequently so dirty that he can barely make out the Chandler
air traffic control tower as he’s headed back to the airport
from the south.
“Imagine a picture of the morning fog over the Golden Gate
Bridge, and then paint that brown over the city,” he says.
“On the hot, still days of fall, after the monsoons are
past, that’s what you get. When it’s at its worst, you can’t
even make out the skyscrapers Downtown, even if Picacho Peak
is crystal clear.”
Phoenix’s infamous “brown cloud” is bad enough from the
ground. Seen from the air, it assumes a science fiction-like
menace. No longer a soupy haze, but a cohesive, creeping fog
that seems to be smothering the city, the brown cloud could
be the aftermath of an apocalypse or the harbinger of an
Which begs the question: What, exactly, is it?
The answer: a suspension of fine particles spewed from our
tailpipes and kicked up by our tires that is literally
choking us to death. And because only certain types of
pollutants make a visible contribution to the brown cloud,
the problem is even worse than it looks. The air in Phoenix
is inducing heart attacks and keeping kids home from school.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that you’re shaving years
off your life simply by living in the Valley.
Why Is the Sky Brown?
By its simplest definition, a brown cloud is a haze with a
brown appearance – a haze being a suspension of particles
that are too small to see individually but impair visibility
in the aggregate when combined. Brown clouds aren’t unique
to Phoenix; they occur over most large cities in the western
United States. Ironically, it’s our lack of regional haze
that makes “brown cloud” more of a buzz phrase west of the
Mississippi than east of it. On the East Coast, large,
multi-state regions are so generally hazy that it’s hard to
pick out the urban clouds that hang over individual cities.
In environmental literature, the kinds of particles that
contribute to air pollution are referred to as particulate
matter, or PM. They are broken down by size. Particles with
a diameter of 10 micrometers or less are called PM10.
Particles that are still smaller, 2.5 micrometers or less,
are called PM2.5. That’s incredibly small; by comparison,
the diameter of a typical human hair is around 75
Hazes impair visibility by scattering and absorbing light,
thereby decreasing the amount of light that travels from
distant objects to our eyes. The amount of light scattered
by a particle is mostly a function of its size, and there’s
a “Goldilocks” phenomenon at work here. The smallest
particles in the atmosphere are too small to scatter much
light; the largest particles (generally coarse dust
particles) are too large. Maximum scattering occurs from
particles that are “just right” – those with a diameter
roughly equal to the wavelength of light, or 0.5
micrometers. So most of the light scattering that occurs in
the atmosphere is due to particles that fall into the PM2.5
According to a 1999 report commissioned by the Maricopa
Association of Governments – and still frequently cited in
brown cloud literature – the particles that contribute most
to haze in western urban areas are organic compounds such as
ammonium nitrate, elemental carbon, fine soil dust particles
and ammonium sulfate. The exact composition of brown clouds
varies by region: Not surprisingly, dust contributes more to
the brown cloud problem in Southwestern cities such as
Phoenix than it does in the Pacific Northwest.
Why are the clouds brown?
Light scattering is one way in which hazes impair
visibility; light absorption is another. Increasing the
light absorption in a haze makes it appear darker and tends
to give it a brown appearance – an effect that owes a lot to
the subjective properties of human vision. The human brain
tends to perceive the brightest element of a scene as being
white (which is why water clouds look white, even when
they’re slightly blue). Clouds of a darker, more neutral
color will look brown or yellow.
Elemental carbon – which has a chemical composition similar
to pencil lead and exists in the atmosphere almost entirely
as PM2.5 – is particularly efficient at absorbing light. It
accounts for most of the “brown” in a brown cloud. Another
contributor is the brown gas nitrogen dioxide, which is
formed in the atmosphere from the nitrogen oxides emitted by
combustion sources. In fact, nitrogen oxide is the only
pollutant gas we can actually see. Other common ones, like
carbon monoxide and ozone, are invisible.
Generally speaking, the primary sources of PM2.5 in urban
areas are combustion sources, mostly gasoline and diesel
engine exhaust. Combustion contributes to particulate
pollution both directly, by emitting a variety of particles
into the air, and indirectly, by emitting gases that are
then oxidized in the atmosphere to create additional
particles. Combustion is also the major source of elemental
carbon. Across the West, our vehicles are the No. 1 cause of
Scientists can apportion blame for the brown cloud in a
particular area by performing chemical mass balance
calculations – mathematically computing the combination of
emission sources that best account for the pollutants
observed in the atmosphere. According to the 1999 MAG
report, gasoline engine exhaust accounts for about half of
the ambient PM2.5 in Maricopa County, and diesel engine
exhaust accounts for about 15 percent. Although soil dust
pollution is a huge problem in the Valley, accounting for
roughly half of our total PM pollution, its contribution to
the visible brown cloud is less significant, because most
soil dust particles are too large to efficiently scatter
light. Our brown cloud exists not because we live in the
desert, but because we drive in it.
Clear Weather Warning
Learning about weather is an important part of a pilot’s
training. In the air, you’re not just a weather observer –
you’re a participant. Pilots learn early in their careers to
distinguish between stable and unstable air; the former
makes for a smoother ride, but it also makes it difficult to
Obviously, the brown cloud is a lot worse on some days than
others. But (with the possible exception of the weekends)
that’s not because we’re driving less, or have noticeably
changed the amount or type of pollutants we’re pumping into
the atmosphere. The one real variable is the weather, and
weather is what determines the day-to-day clarity of our
As a general rule, brown clouds are most common on calm,
cloudless mornings. Here’s why:
On clear nights, with no cloud cover to trap it, the Earth’s
surface radiates its residual daytime heat into space. If
the air is calm, that layer of air closest to the surface
tends to stay there. As the surface cools down, the air next
to it does, too.
This creates what’s known as an inversion. Typically, air
gets thinner and colder as you gain altitude (which is why
ski resorts tend to be in the mountains rather than at sea
level). In an inversion, the air near the surface is cooler
than the air above it. Because cold air sinks, it tends to
stay there – and this stagnant air traps pollutants,
creating the familiar brown cloud.
As the day progresses, the sun heats the Earth’s surface and
the air next to it. This warm air rises and joins the wind
flow aloft, dispersing any pollutants that go with it. For a
pilot – and his or her passengers – the updrafts and
downdrafts that result from convective heating make for a
bumpy ride, but they improve visibility in the cockpit as
well as on the ground. Regional weather systems with strong
winds can also improve visibility by simply blowing
pollutants away (although in Phoenix, they also can whip up
some wicked dust storms).
In 1993, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality
(ADEQ) began measuring “light extinction” in Phoenix as a
way of quantifying the effects of the brown cloud on
visibility. Data from that program indicate that severe
hazes occur most frequently from late September through
February. There are a couple of reasons why the brown cloud
is worse in the fall and winter. Shorter days give less
opportunity for convective heating and the mixing action
that comes with it. And since more morning commuting is done
in the dark, before that convective mixing is active, brown
clouds tend to become even denser and more persistent.
The Valley’s geographical features also play a role in the
persistence of brown clouds. Night-time airflows tend to run
downhill, as air that is cooled more rapidly by radiation on
the exposed upper reaches of a slope sinks to replace the
warmer air below it. Observations made at Phoenix Sky Harbor
International Airport show that in the mornings, winds are
typically light and come from the east, the result of cool
air draining down the Salt River Valley.
Photo by The Maricopa County Air Quality
Afternoon winds are more
variable but frequently occur from the west. When this is
the case, air that was blown out of Phoenix in the morning
is pushed back in the afternoon – and we breathe a double
dose of pollutants, from both our morning and our evening
Because many air pollutants are invisible, clear air doesn’t
necessarily equate to healthy air. But common sense dictates
– and science supports – that when the brown cloud is
hanging over the Valley, the air is bad for us in all kinds
of ways. For example, combustion sources create invisible as
well as visible pollutants (and motor vehicles also kick up
PM10 pollution in the form of road dust). The same weather
patterns that keep visible pollutants over the city keep
invisible ones there as well.
A Silent Killer
What are the consequences of breathing in the brown cloud?
Significant. The toxic cocktail of pollutants in our air
affects us in multiple ways.
Let’s take particulate matter, first. According to the
American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2007 report,
exposure to particulate pollution is killing us – and not
just slowly. Even short-term exposure to particulate
pollution is linked to increased mortality from respiratory
and cardiovascular diseases, especially among children and
the elderly. High particulate pollution is directly linked
to greater infant mortality, more heart attacks and more
hospitalizations for conditions such as strokes.
“Unfortunately, particle pollution does not just make people
die a few days earlier than they might otherwise; these are
deaths that would not have occurred if the air was cleaner,”
the report states.
Long-term exposure to particulate pollution kills, too.
Breathing particulate pollution day in and day out puts us
at increased risk for lung cancer and cardiovascular
disease. The effects of living with particulate pollution
are similar to smoking: According to a 2005 review of
existing research, the body responds to particulate matter
much as it does to cigarette smoke. Even if you’re healthy
now, expect the effects to catch up with you – chronic
exposure to particulate pollution will shorten your life by
one to three years.
Ozone pollution also is taking years off our lives. As with
particulate pollution, high levels of ozone are associated
with greater mortality in people with heart failure,
pulmonary congestion or lung disease. Even in relatively
healthy people, exposure to ozone can trigger some immediate
adverse effects: shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing,
and increased susceptibility to respiratory infections.
Chronic exposure can cause pulmonary inflammation and
increased asthma attacks.
According to the governor’s office, in 2005, Arizonans spent
23,000 patient days – more than 60 years – in the hospital
for asthma. Air pollution is especially problematic for
asthma sufferers. Heightened and more frequent asthma
attacks triggered by air pollution are the primary cause of
school absences among children in Arizona. In 2005, more
than 2,500 Arizona children under the age of 15 were
hospitalized for asthma.
“Just living here and breathing the air, you’re probably
taking one percent off your lifespan,” says Sandy Bahr,
conservation outreach director for the Sierra Club. “It’s
just criminal that we have to tell our children to play
inside because the air is so bad.”
A Hazy Situation
Just how bad is bad?
Ozone and particulates are the biggest offenders in Maricopa
County. The American Lung Association’s State of the Air
2007 report gave the county an “F” grade for ozone pollution
and a “D” grade for particle pollution. (Most other counties
in Arizona received an “A” or “B” on the same scale.)
According to the Sierra Club, in 2005, Maricopa County
exceeded the federal health standard for ozone 30 times. And
“all of the recent research indicates that the levels
established by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) are
not protective enough of public health,” Bahr says.
Ozone is formed when sunlight reacts with volatile organic
compounds emitted from vehicles and other sources. So unlike
the brown cloud, which is seen more frequently in the fall
and winter, ozone is at its worst during the long, sunny
days of summer.
However, PM10 pollution – from construction activities,
vehicular travel, agriculture and other sources – is
Maricopa County’s biggest challenge. In 2005, the Phoenix
area exceeded the federal health standard for particulates
20 times; in 2006, it exceeded it 23 times. Because Maricopa
County failed to meet PM10 standards by its deadline of
December 31, 2006, we now have a federal obligation to cut
particulate emissions by 5 percent per year until we’re in
compliance. If we fail, we could lose up to $1 billion in
federal highway funding – a threat that has finally spurred
our traditionally recalcitrant legislature into action.
Photo by The Maricopa County Air Quality
The history of pollution
control in Phoenix is a long, discouraging record of
political compromises and half-hearted gestures.
“In the ’80s and early ’90s, the state wouldn’t take action
unless someone filed a lawsuit,” Bahr says. “Overall, the
history is one of someone having to push the elected
The regulatory foundation for pollution control efforts is
the federal Clean Air Act, which was passed in 1970 and
amended in 1990. (The Environmental Protection Agency was
created in 1970 to help enforce the provisions of the Act.)
Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA has established national
ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for six primary air
pollutants, including carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen
dioxides, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and ozone.
When an area fails to meet one of these standards, it is
designated a non-attainment area for the pollutant in
question – the equivalent of a failing grade on a school
progress report. Under the Clean Air Act, the state must
then develop what’s called a State Implementation Plan, or
SIP. The SIP lays out enforceable strategies for achieving
compliance – essentially a state’s promise to try harder and
do its homework. The first Arizona SIP was submitted in
1972, and the state has been adding to those promises ever
The Act gives state and local governments considerable
leeway in how they attack pollution. However, SIPs are
subject to EPA approval. If the EPA deems a plan inadequate
– or if that plan fails to achieve the desired results – the
Act brings increasingly stringent measures to bear on the
non-attainment area in question. If necessary, the EPA can
issue sanctions against a state or, in some cases, take over
enforcement of the Clean Air Act in that area.
However, that’s not a quick or efficient process. As an
example, take this abbreviated history of Maricopa County’s
non-compliance with PM10 standards, taken from the PM10 SIP:
• In 1990, Congress enacted the Clean Air Act Amendments.
Maricopa County was deemed a “moderate” non-attainment area
for PM10 and required to show improvement by 1994.
• In 1991, Arizona submitted its moderate area PM10 state
implementation plan to the EPA, but it wasn’t approved until
• In April 1995, the Arizona Center for Law in the Public
Interest (ACLPI) filed suit against the EPA, challenging its
approval of the 1991 plan because it failed to address the
24-hour PM10 standard.
• Meanwhile, the Phoenix area continued to exceed both
annual and 24-hour standards for PM10. In May 1996, the EPA
reclassified it from a “moderate” to a “serious”
non-attainment area, allowing Arizona another 18 months to
develop an appropriate serious area plan. The new deadline
for attainment became December 31, 2001.
• In December 1997, Arizona submitted its serious area plan
to the EPA. In February 1998, the EPA determined that the
plan was inadequate in several ways. That triggered an
18-month time clock for mandatory application of sanctions
and a two-year time clock for application of a federal
• In June 1999, the Maricopa Association of Governments’
Regional Council adopted a serious area plan for PM10 that
contained 77 state and local government control measure
commitments. ADEQ submitted this plan to the EPA in July
• In November 1999, EPA notified MAG of deficiencies in its
plan. A revised plan was submitted in February 2000.
• In July 2002, EPA approved Arizona’s serious area PM10
plan for Maricopa County and granted Arizona’s request to
extend the attainment deadline from 2001 (which had already
passed) to 2006.
• In 2006, Maricopa County once again failed to attain PM10
standards. Arizona was given a deadline of December 31,
2007, to submit a plan for achieving a 5 percent reduction
in PM10 emissions per year until the PM10 standard is
• Arizona submitted that plan on December 26, 2007. Now the
EPA has six months to determine if the plan is complete and
another 12 months to approve or reject it.
“One of the things that you see is that it’s very
slow-going,” says Joy Herr-Cardillo, an attorney with the
nonprofit Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest who
has been active in the center’s air quality efforts. “A lot
of it’s frustrating for me when I’m sitting there waiting
for the EPA to take action.”
The fact that we’re still failing to meet PM10 standards
reflects poorly on the 18-year back-and-forth process
recorded above. Clearly, the pollution controls proposed by
the state and approved by the EPA were inadequate to meet
air quality standards by 2006 – a deadline that had already
been extended several times. In the absence of sufficient
political will, it has been up to groups like the Arizona
Center for Law in the Public Interest to keep the process
moving forward. The ACLPI has taken numerous actions related
to air quality over the years, generally with the aim of
forcing the EPA to enforce its own requirements.
“The whole [Clean Air] Act was designed to have this private
right of enforcement, this citizen’s suit provision,” Herr-Cardillo
“We haven’t won all of our cases, but we’ve won enough of
them that it does keep the agencies on their toes,” she
continues. “A lot of stuff ended up not getting litigated
just by the act of bringing the suit…. Sometimes the 60-day
notice [of intent to sue] is all it takes for people to get
their act together.”
Photo by The Maricopa County Air Quality
Cleaning Up Our Act
There are now encouraging signs from elected officials, who
have historically allowed pressure from industry groups to
hamstring air quality reform. In June 2007, the Arizona
Legislature passed Senate Bill 1552, which, among other
measures, includes requirements for dust training and dust
coordinators on large construction sites; expands the use of
cleaner-burning gasoline during the summer months; places
limits on where off-road vehicles can drive; and requires
cities and towns to pave or stabilize unpaved roads and
shoulders. According to ADEQ spokesman Mark Shaffer, the
municipal ordinances required by SB 1552 will be adopted by
The bill is one component of Arizona’s effort to reduce PM10
pollution by 5 percent per year, as required by the EPA.
According to Shaffer, Arizona’s “Five Percent Plan” – the
latest SIP – was developed by the Maricopa Association of
Governments with input from local municipalities, ADEQ, the
EPA, the state Division of Weights and Measures, Department
of Agriculture, the Arizona Farm Bureau, local homebuilders
Additionally, the Pinal County Board of Supervisors
developed its own plan for the area that includes Apache
Junction (two major provisions are paving four miles of
public dirt roads and a no-burn ordinance that bans outdoor
fires on high PM10 pollution advisory days). ADEQ adopted
both plans and submitted them to the EPA.
ADEQ and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors are also
trying to raise public awareness about air pollution.
Shaffer says that ADEQ has introduced a text-messaging
option for high pollution advisories. In February, the Board
of Supervisors launched “Running Out of Air,” a county-wide
campaign to encourage citizens to do their part to curb dust
These initiatives do not have purely idealistic motives.
Bahr notes that, in part, SB 1552 was “driven by the fact
that people were concerned about losing those federal
In fact, although the federal highway funding at risk is
substantial, we’re not in imminent danger of losing it.
According to Herr-Cardillo, the state will not really see
sanctions as long as it keeps making efforts to improve its
air – even if those efforts are largely unsuccessful.
“The sanctions only kick in if the state stops trying,”
Herr-Cardillo says. “The way they get into trouble with the
Clean Air Act is when they thumb their nose at it… and
that’s actually the kind of thing they used to do.”
There is more we could be doing to clean up our air. For
years, the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest has
tried to require clean-burning CARB diesel in the state (“CARB”
refers to the California Air Resources Board).
“Particularly for the smallest of the particulate matter, it
would go a long way,” Herr-Cardillo says. However, the most
recent plan submitted to the EPA has no provision for it,
and the EPA has stated that it will approve a plan without
The Sierra Club would like to see stronger agricultural
controls, more attention paid to sand and gravel permitting,
and additional funding for mass transit. It would also like
to see an “indirect source” review program for new
Bahr points out that new development contributes to air
pollution not just during its construction, but over its
lifespan, by increasing the number of vehicles and vehicle
miles travelled. An indirect source review program would
reward developers for things like mixed land use,
pedestrian-friendly development and energy-efficient
construction that reduces pollution over the life of the
“One could argue that part of the reason for failing to meet
the mark in 2006 was failing to enforce [air quality
measures]… but also just doing the bare minimum,” Bahr says.
As members of the single-occupancy-vehicle, gas-guzzling
general public, we’re the ones who contribute most to our
brown cloud. But that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t change our
ways, given the opportunity.
“I actually think people are more willing to make changes
now, but they want people to tell them why and how it’s
going to help,” Bahr says. “Really, it does matter what each
of us does.”
And Herr-Cardillo believes there’s substantial public
support for tough air quality legislation and enforcement.
“I would say that the public is very supportive of stringent
measures,” she says. “I think people get really, really
frustrated that we’re still living with it [air pollution]….
But I do think we continue to see progress.”
Meanwhile, we catch our deep breaths when and where we can.
South of Phoenix, one or two thousand feet above the ground,
the air is actually clear enough to make out some hazy stars
at night – a sight that has been missing from the city for
“The advantage of flying south of the city is being able to
escape,” Welch says. “The worst part of seeing the brown
cloud is knowing you eventually have to go back into it.”
April, 2008, Page 233
JJ Hensley and
The Arizona Republic
Mar. 13, 2008 12:00 AM
slight change in federal ozone standards could bump Maricopa
County into the unhealthful range more often but may
ultimately save billions of dollars and benefit public
The Environmental Protection Agency introduced the new ozone
standards Wednesday that administrators say are "the most
Although Maricopa County has not exceeded ozone standards in
three years, it has been close, and the new standards may
push the area over the edge.
The current standard is effectively 0.084 part per million
or below. The new standard will be 0.075 part per million.
"Quite simply . . . we will have a problem with meeting the
(new) federal standard," said Bob Kard, head of the county's
air-quality department. "We're on the ragged edge. It's
going to be a massive undertaking. I think we can do this, I
think it will be a benefit to public health, but it's going
to have to take a lot of work."
Regional environmental officials said they were waiting to
assess the impact of the decision and had not received
guidelines from the EPA that would spell out deadlines and
strategies for achieving compliance.
In all, 345 counties - including Maricopa, Pima, Pinal and
Gila counties - would violate the new standard.
Bringing them into compliance would prevent 900 to 1,100
premature deaths a year nationally, according to the agency,
and result in 5,600 fewer hospital or emergency-room visits.
In Maricopa County, the 20 monitors that measure ozone in
the county's "non-attainment," or problem, areas are
trending downward overall, said Lindy Bauer, environmental
director of the Maricopa Association of Governments.
However, ozone readings at one monitor in Rio Verde have
reached 0.083 part per million, just barely meeting the
current standard of 0.084 ppm.
Levels at that monitor are also trending downward, according
to the most recent data.
EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson called the new smog
requirements "the most stringent standards ever" and said
they will require counties that fail to meet the standard to
Johnson said state and local officials have considerable
time to meet the new requirements, as much as 20 years for
some that have the most serious pollution problems. The EPA
estimates that, by 2020, the number of counties failing to
meet the new health standard will drop to about 28.
About 85 counties fall short of the old standard, which was
enacted a decade ago.
But the regulations could also cost businesses anywhere from
$7 billion to $11 billion to implement better smog controls,
according to estimates from the EPA and industry groups.
Business advocates also claim the science supporting the
health effects of reducing the standards is specious.
Businesses had lobbied hard for leaving the smog rule alone,
saying the high cost of lower limits could hurt the economy.
In recent weeks, some of the most powerful industry groups
in Washington have waged an intense lobbying campaign at the
White House, urging the administration to keep the current
Electric utilities, the oil and chemical industries and
manufacturing groups argued that tougher standards would
require states and local officials to impose new pollution
controls, harming economic growth, when the science has yet
to determine the health benefits conclusively.
However, others said the EPA didn't go far enough.
John M. Balbus, a physician and the chief health scientist
at the Environmental Defense Fund, said, "Clearly, at some
point, you get to a level where additional benefits just
aren't worth it, but I don't think we're there at 75.
"The EPA's own risk estimates show that, between 75 and 70,
there will be hundreds more deaths and thousands more visits
to emergency rooms, and hundreds of thousands of more lost
school days," he said, arguing for a tougher standard of
Estimates released Wednesday say the new threshold could
prevent cases of bronchitis, asthma, heart attack, premature
death and hospital and emergency-room visits, with potential
health-care-related savings totaling $2 billion to $19
billion, according to the agency.
The EPA enacted the 0.08-ppm standard in 1997, but a series
of court challenges from industry groups delayed its
implementation for several years.
The federal Clean Air Act requires that health standards for
ozone and a handful of other air pollutants not take costs
But Johnson said that ought to change. He said the Bush
administration plans to propose legislation to Congress to
overhaul the 1970 law so that, in the future, costs can be
considered when setting health standards.
Arizona will be responsible for submitting a plan on how to
clean up the Valley's air.
Tougher standards could be placed on various products sold
in the Valley in order to meet the stricter ozone-pollution
limits, Kard said.
Those range from gasoline delivery and paints to spray-on
deodorants, hair products and glues, which emit
Regional officials are waiting on the EPA to spell out the
details of the plan, including key dates and implementation
guidelines, Bauer said.
"The question is: How long will the EPA give the region to
attain the standard," Bauer said.
"Then, we'll be able to see what it means for our region."
Republic wire services contributed to this article.
Light-rail test a
The Arizona Republic
Apr. 24, 2007 11:26 PM
It stopped traffic. It
turned heads. It worked.
Crawling down Washington
Street like an overgrown toddler, a Metro light-rail vehicle
made its maiden voyage under its own power on Tuesday.
The train crept down a mile
of track at a top speed of 3 mph with a team of engineers
strutting alongside like proud parents.
"It works! Thank God," Metro
spokeswoman Marty McNeil said as the vehicle inched down
Washington on newly installed electric power lines. "We've
towed one of these out here before, but this is the first
time we've done it under power, and it's working great."
Tuesday was engineers' first
chance to evaluate the rail line's software and electrical
system. The trains are powered by electricity from overhead
"The interfaces between the
overhead power supply and train . . . performed flawlessly,"
Jay Harper, Metro operations manager, said in an e-mail.
Two years after Metro broke
ground on the $1.4 billion light-rail system, the trains are
undergoing a battery of tests in advance of their planned
December 2008 opening. The 20-mile starter line stretches
from central Phoenix to Mesa.
Later this week, Metro is
planning a high-speed test for one of the 17 trains
assembled so far. Late at night, engineers will take the
vehicle up to 58 mph to test brakes and a system designed to
prevent the train from exceeding posted speeds.
The road tests will continue
through this December.
Separated from the road by a
6-inch concrete curb, the train rolled by about 30 minutes
later than scheduled Tuesday because of additional
last-minute safety precautions, officials said. But they
were pleased with the train's first trip.
"The test team is delighted
with the results," Harper said. "To have the first test out
in the street in a very complex system go so well had
everyone in good spirits."
Each time the train went
through an intersection, Phoenix police stopped traffic to
let it pass. Many motorists slowed during the exercise
between 44th and 56th streets to gawk at the $2.75 million
Most just stared. Some
honked. One man stuck a digital camera out his driver's-side
window, taking snapshots as he went.
Passers-by said they were
eager to use light rail.
"I'd do it just on the whim
of it," said Jack O'Malley, a retired car salesman who was
taking photos of the vehicle. "When I have visitors, it'd be
a treat for them to ride the train."
O'Malley scrambled onto the
guideway to take pictures, ignoring Metro officials' pleas
to stay out of the train's path.
When engineers finally
chased the 74-year-old man off the tracks, he said he
couldn't wait to send his photos to his friends around the
"They still think we're a
big sandbox here in Arizona," O'Malley said with a chuckle.
"But I've lived to see science fiction come true."
transit woos Valley's commuters
could strengthen case for light rail, some say
The Arizona Republic
Mar. 20, 2006 12:00 AM
It's 6:45 a.m. in Ahwatukee
and the commute is in full swing.
In a steady stream, solo drivers pull into a parking
lot on Pecos Road, get out and line up to board one
of the I-10 Rapid buses.
If it's standing room only, some wait 10 minutes for
the next bus, just to get a plush recliner so they
can settle back with a book or an iPod on the way to
"Now, if you're not on the bus
by 7 a.m., you can count on standing," said Toni
Brouillard, a 50-year-old east Chandler resident who
works as an executive assistant at JPMorgan.
Increasingly, this scene plays out every day in
park-and-ride lots throughout the Valley.
Over the past two fiscal years, the number of riders
on the region's commuter buses has jumped 57
percent. While the raw numbers were still small, an
average 5,213 per weekday, the surge outpaced a
healthy 11 percent jump in overall bus ridership.
This year, ridership on Rapid and Express buses is
on pace to grow an additional 14 percent.
The reasons are varied, from gas prices to expanded
service. But if the trend holds, transit officials
say, it signals transit is beginning to woo its
hardest fans, those higher-income suburbanites who
are joined to their cars at the hip. It also could
build support for bus and light-rail expansions.
No one is saying yet that the Valley has arrived as
a big-league bus and rail town, like Los Angeles or
Atlanta. But the signs of a deepening buy-in by the
public are more pronounced.
"Commuters want this kind of service. They're sick
of congestion and sick of unpredictability," said
David Schwartz, executive director of Friends of
Transit. "The biggest complaint I hear is: 'I live
in - pick a community - when are we going to get
Until recently, buses have historically been the
domain of the working poor. In the Valley, the
heaviest ridership occurs in dense central urban
neighborhoods where three homes in 10 have no car.
According to a 2001 Valley Metro study, the average
annual income of people who rode local buses was
$26,000, compared with $49,600 for express riders.
Lower-income riders will remain the system's anchor.
They need and demand transit more. But to put a
greater dent in reducing traffic and smog, transit
officials also want to attract "choice riders,"
those who choose how to commute. That means running
service, by bus or light-rail, into middle-class
Valley Metro, or the Regional Public Transportation
Authority, now runs 19 Rapid and Express routes.
In coming years, the commuter routes will expand
Last month, RPTA got its first check from
Proposition 400, which was approved two years ago
and will inject $3 billion into expanding and
improving bus service over the next 20 years.
The first of those changes will occur this summer,
when a new rural bus route to Wickenburg begins and
62 new buses arrive, most to replace aging vehicles.
Over the next two decades, RPTA will bring in 2,100
new buses and add as many as 31 express routes. It
will also improve service on as many as 34 local
streets where buses cross city lines. The RPTA board
authorized last week spending $630,000 to move ahead
with half a dozen studies to plan long-term bus
The first big boost in Rapid service comes in 2008,
when six new routes begin. Next year, RPTA adds a
single Rapid route to serve the north Route 101
"Prop. 400 allows us to go much further. We have an
opportunity we haven't had in years, if ever. The
sky's the limit," RPTA Executive Director David
Commuters choose the bus over their cars for a
variety of reasons: time, money, employer discounts
or peace of mind.
Laura Webb, who lives in Ahwatukee, began taking the
I-10 line two years ago after she learned about it
from word of mouth. The 46-year-old rides the Rapid
to her job near the state Capitol, where she's a
project specialist at the Department of Corrections.
She first noticed people standing in the aisles
about six months ago.
"The buses have a good reputation. They're always on
time - always," Webb said. "They're comfortable, the
air-conditioner works, and they give me a chance to
catch (up) on my reading. And I don't have to put
miles on my car."
The Ahwatukee park-and-ride lot fills quickly with
all manner of cars, including a Jaguar or two along
with the Hondas and family vans.
Perhaps the biggest boost to commuter buses has been
"People who rode the bus in September when gas was
$3 a gallon stayed with it," said William W. Millar,
president of the American Public Transportation
Association. "In city after city after city, it's a
pattern we're seeing. None of us knows if this is
the start of a brand-new trend or another spike."
The Valley's rapid growth on the fringes also has
In recent months, officials from Anthem to Avondale
to Pinal County have clamored for express lines.
When the city of Surprise last fall asked for one
ahead of schedule, Boggs, the RPTA director, worked
out a deal with an out-of-state transit agency to
get used vehicles fast. Within two months, Valley
Metro had a bus on Grand Avenue, paid for by city
The household budget, with help from employers, also
is driving demand.
A single Rapid or Express fare costs $1.75, 50 cents
more than a local ride, or $51 for a monthly pass.
Brouillard, the east Chandler commuter, gets half
off her monthly pass because her employer, JPMorgan,
picks up the other half as part of a regional
trip-reduction program to discourage solo drivers.
She saves about $1,900 in gas and parking, plus an
additional $950 from wear and tear each year.
But that's not the biggest selling point. "I'll do
anything to get in that HOV lane," Brouillard said.
By car, her 25-mile trip would take an hour, door to
door. By bus, it's 45 minutes, including the drive
to the park-and-ride lot.
Commuters still face
many obstacles in making the bus system work for
Geoff Goodrich, 45, of northwest Phoenix, used to
ride the 582 Express every day, going from the
Metrocenter Mall to the Phoenix Art Museum, where he
works as security chief.
But his work schedule changed. On weekends and later
in the evening, he can't count on a bus. So, he
rides it two or three days a week.
It's similar on other routes.
The last run of the evening for the Scottsdale
Express, Route 512, leaves downtown Phoenix at 4:54
p.m. Because of traffic and distance, it doesn't
reach the last stop at Palisades Boulevard until
The Mesa Express, Route 540, pulls out of the
Decatur Street stop at 4:50 a.m. but reaches
downtown Phoenix until an "estimated" 5:40 a.m.,
according to the bus book, which advises passengers
not to count on the schedule to make transfers.
Despite the limits, more commuters are giving it a
Goodrich said gas prices drove him to the bus at
first, but after he began enjoying a cup of coffee
and reading the paper on the way, he liked it.
"Even if it doesn't save me money, I'd still ride
the bus just for the relaxation," he said. "Going
home, there's not that hide-in-the-closet detox time
after work. I do that on the bus."
Contact the reporter at (602) 444-8334 or