The year 1970. Richard Nixon was President. The Beatles released their final album. The Ford Pinto is introduced. A young peanut farmer and former state senator, Jimmy Carter, was elected Governor of Georgia. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was established. John Wayne won best actor for True Grit. Simon and Garfunkel were at the top of the music charts. The Baltimore Orioles were winners of the World Series. Personally, I had just made the crossover from crawling to walking.
It was also the last year Maricopa County met the federal standards for dust (PM-10) under the Clean Air Act. We have subsequently been out of compliance for over four decades. Until last week.
The EPA last Friday announced that it had approved the most recent “Five Percent Plan” for the Maricopa County Nonattainment Area. The plan documents compliance with PM-10 standards, showing that such emissions have been reduced by 5 percent each year between 2007 and 2012. This was no small task.
It took leadership from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ), Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG), and Maricopa County working with a host of other stakeholders, including business groups such as the Arizona Chamber. Continuing in non-compliance would have hurt Arizona – and the business community in particular – with costly new regulations.
An important component of the approval was that the EPA excluded a number of “high wind events” from consideration when determining compliance under the Clean Air Act. The EPA’s amended policy prevents Arizona from being punished for the large dust storms that are common during monsoon season. Sen. Jeff Flake deserves kudos for ensuring that Arizona’s interests were well represented in the revision of this policy.
Finding common ground with the EPA is rare. All involved should be congratulated for their efforts.