The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 (CAAA) established the mandate for better coordination between air quality and transportation planning. The CAAA requires that all transportation plans and transportation investments in non-attainment and maintenance areas be subject to an air quality conformity determination. The purpose of such a determination is to demonstrate that the Transportation Plan and Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) conform to the intent and purpose of the State Implementation Plan (SIP). The intent of the SIP is to achieve and maintain clean air and meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). Therefore, for non-attainment and maintenance areas, the Transportation Plan and the TIP must demonstrate that the implementation of these projects do not result in greater mobile source emissions than the emissions budget.
However, effective July 20, 2013 the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) revoked the 1997 8-hour 0.080 parts per million (ppm) ozone standard for the purposes of regional transportation conformity. On July 20, 2013, the USEPA issued designations for the new 2008 8-hour 0.075ppm ozone standard. This resulted in the Kalamazoo-Battle Creek, MI area being designated attainment under the 2008 standard. This attainment/maintenance area included the counties of Kalamazoo, Calhoun and Van Buren. Effective July 20, 2013, as a result of this action, the Kalamazoo-Battle Creek MI attainment/maintenance area was no longer required to demonstrate regional transportation conformity of Long Range Plans or Transportation Improvement Programs (TIPs) until EPA published new standards or new notices of non-attainment. On April 6, 2015, the USEPA revoked completely the 1997 ozone standard in anticipation of setting a new, more stringent, standard later in 2015.
As of October 1, 2015, the USEPA set new NAAQS for ozone at 0.070ppm, thereby imposing a stricter standard for ozone. This set into motion a timeline for a new Ozone NAAQS Designation Process as follows:
- in February 2016 the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality released quality assured air quality monitoring data for the years 2013 to 2015
- following the USEPA release of guidance documents to the states for defining non-attainment areas under the new standards, states will work on recommendations to be submitted to USEPA of non-attainment areas in their states
- by October 1, 2016 the Michigan DEQ will recommend designations and boundaries for the areas to the USEPA. All areas of the state will be categorized as either attainment, non-attainment or unclassifiable
- by June 2, 2017 the USEPA will respond to the states and indicate where the agency intends to modify the state's recommendations
- by August 7, 2017 the states can submit additional information to respond to the USEPA's intended modifications
- by October 1, 2017 the USEPA will issue final area designations with classifications based on quality assured data for 2014 to 2016 - note this is different than the data the MDEQ used for its recommendations
- by October 1, 2018 the areas that are designated as non-attainment must have formed Interagency Work Groups, conducted air quality conformity analysis, and must demonstrate conformity of the Long Range Transportation Plan and TIP.
The Kalamazoo monitor did not exceed the new standard when the 2013-2015 data was released. However, it is unknown how the area will fare once the data for the, as yet unexperienced 2016 year, is considered by the USEPA.
Information regarding the Air Quality status of the Battle Creek area will be updated as it becomes available.