October 05, 2015

Nonattainment Review – What Is It and Why Is It Important?

Two of the most common questions I get from folks in the construction industry are, "What is nonattainment?" and "Why is it important to me?" Let me take a few moments to answer these critical questions.

Under the Clean Air Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets standards called "National Ambient Air Quality Standards" for six common air pollutants, including particulate matter and ground-level ozone. Based on these standards, the EPA designates geographic areas like counties as either meeting ("attainment") or not meeting ("nonattainment") a standard. In other words, "nonattainment" refers to an area of the country that exceeds the EPA's air quality standard for a certain pollutant.

The Clean Air Act also requires States to develop a general plan to attain and maintain air quality in all areas of the country and a specific plan to attain the standards for each area designated nonattainment. This is important for the construction industry because some State and local efforts to address nonattainment implicate off-road diesel equipment through technological requirements like retrofit or practice requirements like idling restrictions. For example, California's nonattainment was a driving force behind its recently delayed In-Use Off-Road Diesel Vehicle Regulation. With the EPA regularly revisiting its pollutant standards, there is a possibility that more areas will be designated nonattainment, as well as a chance of expanded requirements for the construction industry in new parts of the country.