Tougher smog standards roll out nationwide today.
In Arizona, they could have a big impact on transportation planning and emissions testing on vehicles, industrial operations and power plants, according to state air quality officials.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards affect 470 counties in 31 states, including Arizona, where air quality will be monitored over an eight-hour period instead of one hour a day.
"When we are finished, our entire nation will have cleaner air," said EPA chief Mike Leavitt on Wednesday.
The Valley has started air quality monitoring under the eight-hour requirement and is not quite meeting the standards, said Al Brown, director of the Maricopa County Environmental Services Department. He predicts that the EPA will classify the Valley as moderate.
"It’s not like we’re Los Angeles by any means," Brown said. Population growth, however, offsets the gains made to reduce pollution.
"Now that we have our marching orders, we have our work cut out for us," he said.
The EPA also is expected to finalize the boundaries where there will be higher monitoring standards in Arizona. Gov. Janet Napolitano has recommended more limited boundaries that stay within Maricopa County.
The EPA, however, is expected to extend the boundary into northern Pinal County, including parts of Apache Junction, according to state and county officials.
The standards allow less ozone in the air, from 120 parts per billion down to 85. They were delayed from taking effect for four years because of failed court challenges by trucking, manufacturing and business groups, as well as Michigan, Ohio and West Virginia.
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the standards in February 2001. Environmental and public health groups such as the American Lung Association and Environmental Defense sued to force the government into action.
Leavitt was under a courtordered deadline today to release the names of noncomplying counties and the categories they fall in, which determine the corrective measures.
Air quality officials in the Valley will have to pay closer attention to nitrogen oxide.
Recent scientific studies have shown that nitrogen oxide, which comes primarily from vehicles, probably has a significant impact on smog, Brown said.
"I think we’re going to find that nitrogen oxide needs to be controlled more than it ever has in the past," he said.
That could mean changes to emissions testing of vehicles, boilers at industrial operations, power plants, and other sources of nitrogen oxide. States and counties, however, are limited in what they can do to significantly reduce vehicle emissions, Brown said.
- The Associated Press contributed to this story.