Prevent nonattainment

Nonattainment is a federal Environmental Protection Agency designation for a region that exceeds air quality standards. We offer Prevent Nonattainment grants to assist public entities in areas at risk of nonattainment, to help reduce air pollution.

National ambient air quality standards

Using air monitoring data, we must determine whether an area meets six national air quality standards for common air pollutants, called criteria air pollutants, which EPA sets in the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

The federal Clean Air Act says there are three ways to classify, or "designate," an area's air quality:

  • Attainment — meeting a standard
  • Nonattainment — not meeting a standard
  • Unclassifiable — not enough information to classify

Each designation is for a specific air quality standard. An area can be in attainment for one standard, and be in nonattainment, or unclassifiable, for another. If an area does not meet a standard, then we must follow a state implementation plan to bring that area back into attainment. 

When EPA sets or revises an air quality standard, we must determine whether the state meets the new standard and if the designation has changed.

Areas of concern

All areas of Washington, except a small area in Whatcom County, currently meet air quality standards. Several areas are being watched closely. We and other clean air agencies monitor the air using Washington's air monitoring network at 55 locations.

  • Twenty-two are in urban areas: the Puget Sound region and the Tri-Cities, as well as Vancouver, Spokane, and Yakima counties.
  • Nineteen are in small communities outside of urban areas that have local sources of PM2.5 pollution.
  • Seven are in agricultural areas, to help us make decisions about agricultural burning.
  • Six are in tribal areas.
  • One is in a natural rural location on the Olympic Peninsula.

Beyond the health impacts of being in nonattainment, the community in a non-attainment area must bear the brunt of returning to compliance. Stricter federal and state regulations could create challenges for economic development and expansion, transportation, and permitted sources that have to implement more stringent and costly controls.

View the full map

Prevent nonattainment grants

Prevent nonattainment (PNA) grants are sometimes offered to assist public entities in Washington state to help reduce air pollution in areas at risk of nonattainment. The organization’s grant-funded PNA project must demonstrate reductions for the criteria pollutant that is most at risk of exceeding air quality standards.

Grants awarded

For the 2021-2023 biennium, the Washington Legislature approved over $2 million to expand our nonattainment-prevention work statewide.

Recipient Amount Project
Benton Conservation District $122,000 PM10 reduction on agricultural lands in Benton and Franklin counties
Methow Valley Citizens $282,000 Outdoor burning reduction program in Okanogan County, particularly Omak
Okanogan Conservation District $319,995 Okanogan outdoor burning alternatives
Puget Sound Clean Air $68,000 Deploy ceilometers to improve air quality forecasts, reduce high pollution days
Snohomish Conservation District $135,651 Outdoor burning reduction in Darrington —
outreach, neighborhood field days, on-site chipping.
Southwest Clean Air $40,500 Vancouver area “Spare Our Air” project to educate about outdoor burning, best practices, restrictions
Spokane Clean Air $144,375 PM2.5 — PurpleAir sensors at schools and libraries, a display kiosk, community science / engagement pilot, and a public-awareness campaign
Spokane Clean Air $208,909 PM10 — Dust mitigation on gravel roads near sensitive populations
Spokane County Commute Smart $40,500 "Cut the Congestion" commute-trip-reduction incentive program
Tacoma Pierce Health Department $487,454 Ozone reduction — School zone anti-idling program at eight Tacoma-area schools