State takes clean air steps in Tacoma

Gov. Chris Gregoire yesterday celebrated two significant air quality achievements at a ceremony in Tacoma. The governor noted that the entire state is in accordance with federal air quality standards for the first time, and she signed a clean car rule that will ensure that cars and light trucks sold in Washington are the cleanest available.

The clean car rule was formulated by the state Department of Ecology and enacts legislation passed in April that adopts clean-car standards for Washington.

“The clean car law is the most important piece of environmental legislation adopted in our state in this decade,” Gov. Gregoire said. “It will improve the quality of the air we breathe, enhance public health and help prevent global warming. We will also promote fuel efficient vehicles that will save money for Washingtonians at the gas pump.”

The clean car standards will apply to the 2009 model year vehicles, provided Oregon enacts a clean car rule. Washington’s law is contingent on Oregon passing a similar plan and that state is currently involved in its own rulemaking process.

Gregoire also celebrated the federal clean air designation.

“Hundreds of potentially toxic chemicals are released into the air each year in Washington through sources like diesel exhaust and wood smoke,” said Gov. Gregoire. “Evidence is clear that exposure to these chemicals can have serious health effects.”

The state must meet Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards for air pollutants such as ground-level ozone, carbon monoxide and particulate matter. Over the past year, the final three areas of Washington have been designated as “attainment” for these pollution standards – Yakima, Spokane and Wallula. Areas must meet EPA standards for three years and have an EPA-approved maintenance plan that ensures air quality meets federal standards to be designated as in attainment.

Washington is one of only a handful of states that do not have any areas in non-attainment and the only state in the West to achieve such distinction.

“In 1995, we had three and a half million people in living in non-attainment areas; in November 2005, we have zero,” Gov. Gregoire said. “It has been worth the investment of time and resources because attainment will mean better health and a better economy for the people of Washington.”

Gov. Gregoire emphasized that although the state is now meeting EPA standards, there is to do to ensure healthy air quality throughout Washington.

Gov. Gregoire was joined by: Jay Manning, director of the state Department of Ecology; Rick Albright, director of the Office of Air, Waste and Toxics for EPA Region 10; and Dr. Greg Redding, chief of the pulmonary division at the Children’s Hospital & Regional Medical Center and a board member of the American Lung Association. Don Brunell, president of the Association of Washington Business, also participated on behalf of Washington businesses that have supported state clean air standards.