Georgia Basin / Puget
International Airshed Strategy
and Inventory of
Air Quality Practices
Emissions from a power plant
background - Canadian air quality
background - U.S.A. air quality
background - transboundary air quality
background - GB/PS International Airshed Strategy
background - U.S.A. air quality
Similar to Canada, the expansion of heavy industry, and then the automobile, led to serious
local and regional air pollution issues in many parts of the United States,
particularly the Eastern States. In response, many states and local governments passed
air pollution legislation before the U.S. federal government passed the
1955 Air Pollution Act identifying air pollution as a national problem.
The act also stated that additional research and actions to improve air quality were required.
Serious air pollution incidents in the United States underscored the need for government action.
- St. Louis - 1939, lanterns needed during daytime for one week;
- Los Angeles - 1943, visibility reduced to three blocks;
- Donora, Pennsylvania - 1948, 20 dead and 5,190 ill;
- Los Angeles - 1954, heavy smog conditions shut down industry & schools for most of October; and,
- New York - 1953, about 200 dead; 1963, 405 dead; 1965, 65 dead; 1966, 168 dead.
Donora, PA at noon on Oct. 29, 1948
as deadly smog envelops the town.
Significant government efforts included amendments to national air pollution legislation in the U.S.
that culminated in the
1970 Clean Air Act. This Act established new standards
for ambient air quality, set new limits on stationary and mobile source emissions
to be enforced by state and federal governments, and increased funding for air pollution research.
Further progressive efforts by the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) later led to the
1990 Clean Air Act. This Act included measures to address known and emerging
air pollution issues, such as:
The 1990 Clean Air Act also allows the Environmental Protection Agency to set limits on
how much of a given pollutant can be in the air anywhere within the United States.
This ensures that all Americans have the same basic health
and environmental protection. It also allows individual states to have stronger
pollution controls, but they must adhere to the common national standards.
Through the Clean Air Act and other US initiatives, emissions were 27% lower in 1996 than in 1980,
and are predicted to be 40% lower by 2010 (than 1980).
- increased automobile emissions standards with a definite timetable for reductions;
- encouraged use of low-sulfur and alternative fuels
to reduce sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere, a main component of acid precipitation;
- mandated installment of
Best Available Control Technology (BACT) to reduce emissions of air toxics; and,
- reduction in the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) to reduce
Another important part of the U.S. Clean Air Act is the requirement that individual
states have to develop
State Implementation Plans (SIPs) that explain how each state meet its obligations
under the Act. An SIP is a collection of regulations that a state will use to clean up
polluted areas, and that also allow for public involvement through hearings and opportunities to comment.
Finally, the Environmental Protection Agency must approve each plan, and if it is not acceptable,
the EPA can assume enforcement of the Clean Air Act in that state.
In Washington State, government revised and updated its early 1970s air protection legislation
1991 Clean Air Act. This Act empowers the
State Department of Ecology to regulate burning to meet shared forest protection and
air quality objectives, and emphasized pollution prevention, accountability, and
state government leadership. In addition to other important functions,
the Washington State Clean Air Act established regional agencies,
such as the
Northwest Air Pollution Authority and the
Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, to meet and maintain air quality standards, protect human health,
prevent injury to plant and animal life and protect visibility.
In 1999, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a major effort
to improve air quality in national parks and wilderness areas.
Regional Haze Rule calls for state and federal agencies to work together to
improve visibility in 156 national parks and wilderness areas.
The rule requires states to work with the EPA, other federal departments, and
other interested parties, to develop and implement air quality protection plans
that reduce air pollution-related visibility impairment.
Further American air quality efforts include regulations that will reduce emissions from
non-road motor vehicles such as construction equipment and recreational vehicles by
requiring cleaner engines and cleaner fuels
Other available backgrounds include
transboundary, and the
GB/PS International Airshed Strategy
A list of the participating agencies
in the Georgia Basin / Puget Sound International Airshed Strategy is available.