Friday, September 12, 2014

Tacoma fights air pollution and improves economic potential

By Melanie Forster, Outreach and Education, Air Quality Program

Tacoma has seen its share of major employers leave the city and take their jobs elsewhere. Job growth declined in recent years and employment numbers are still behind 2008* levels.  The reasons a company may choose to relocate are many. But, did you know that air pollution may be one of the reasons companies seek greener pastures elsewhere?

When air quality is poor and doesn’t meet federal standards it can trigger the Environmental Protection Agency to designate an area in a state of nonattainment. In simple terms, that means unable to attain federal air quality standards.

Between 2006 – 2008 Tacoma and Pierce County violated the federal air standard for fine particle pollution, which exposed the public to harmful air pollution, caused economic impacts to businesses and citizens, and resulted in EPA designating the area in a state of nonattainment.

How does nonattainment hurt the economy?

When an area is designated as “nonattainment” the state has to develop a plan to improve the air quality and show it can be maintained. The plan also must include more stringent requirements for Air Operating Permits. These additional requirements can make doing business in the area expensive or even cost prohibitive which may not be attractive to prospective businesses.

Good news for Tacoma

Puget Sound Clean Air Agency worked closely with Ecology and a community task force to reduce harmful particle pollution. Today Tacoma and Pierce County are meeting the federal air quality standards and that’s good news.
Ecology has prepared a plan that shows the improvement in air quality. The plan also outlines how to maintain and continue to decrease fine particle pollution and illustrates how the area will continue to meet the federal standard for the next 10 years.

Ecology will submit the plan to the EPA for approval and if accepted, the area will be re-designated as meeting federal standards (in attainment status) and avoid further action by EPA. This will reduce the more stringent requirements and potentially make the area more alluring to businesses considering opening up in or moving to Tacoma.

Help keep the air clean 

At the heart of the air pollution problem were residents burning wood to heat homes during winter.
While we understand that many residents will continue to use wood stoves and fireplaces there are things you can do to release less pollution into the air:

  • Use a cleaner source of heat. Tacoma/Pierce County has an incentive program to replace older, more polluting woodstoves check it out: Incentive Program
  • Burn properly: When burn bans are NOT in effect, burn only seasoned firewood in a certified stove. Efficient burning means you use less wood and less pollution goes into the air. Watch our Burning Efficiently video.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to make sure your stove burns as cleanly as it was designed to do.
  • When there’s a burn ban, don’t burn.  Sign up for Tacoma Burn Ban Alerts.

Visit Ecology’s website to learn more about fine particle pollution and nonattainment. Or, to review and comment on the plan being submitted to EPA review it on Ecology’s website or in person at Ecology Headquarters, 300 Desmond Drive, Lacey, WA. You also can request a mailed copy of the plan by calling 360-407-6826.

* Washington RegionalEconomic Analysis Project with data provided by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis. 

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