The Environmental Protection Agency announced today that federal transportation funds could be frozen until Arizona comes up with an acceptable air quality control plan.
The warning comes as the EPA released findings that pollution exceeding federal standards in 2008 could not be the result of dust storms as state air quality officials earlier claimed.
“After thoroughly reviewing the state’s data, EPA air-quality scientists determined that a legally significant number of pollution spikes were not the result of regional dust storms,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA regional administrator. “Therefore, the ‘exceptional events’ were not supported by the science.”
Arizona currently is not meeting the national standard for particulate matter, PM-10 (one-seventh the width of a human hair). Major concerns for human health from exposure to PM-10 include: effects on breathing and respiratory systems, damage to lung tissue, cancer, and premature death. The elderly, children, and people with chronic lung disease, influenza, or asthma, are especially sensitive.
Arizona officials had asserted that dust storms were responsible for 10 of the 11 unacceptably high pollution spikes in Phoenix during 2008. With the latest finding, the EPA will initiate disapproval of the state’s air quality control plan for Phoenix. If a final disapproval is rendered, federal transportation funds to the state could be frozen. In such a scenario, transportation funds would be withheld until the state submits an adequate air quality plan. The freeze would not affect currently approved transportation plans and projects.
Read more: EPA ruling could jeopardize transportation funds – Phoenix Business Journal