Improving air quality in overburdened communities

We're working to implement a new air quality initiative aimed at expanding air quality monitoring. We're working to ultimately reduce air pollution in communities that bear a disproportionate burden of pollution today. This environmental justice focus is a key part of the Climate Commitment Act, the 2021 law that establishes a cap-and-invest program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Washington.

Improving air quality in overburdened communities: Section 3 of the Climate Commitment Act

Section 3 of the Climate Commitment Act ("Improving Air Quality in Overburdened Communities") requires us to conduct an environmental justice review to determine whether reducing greenhouse gas emissions is also reducing other types of air pollution in the communities that bear the brunt of pollution.

We are currently undergoing a robust technical and public process to develop criteria to identify overburdened communities highly impacted by air pollution. From there, we will establish an expanded air quality monitoring program to get more information on pollution levels in these areas. Based on that information, we will work to develop plans to reduce pollution in these areas.  

Summary of initial comment period

We held the first public comment period to hear about peoples' lived experiences with air quality and what they would like to see prioritized in Ecology's process to identify overburdened communites for this initiative. The three-month comment period went from January-March 2022, and included eight public and community group listening sessions, as well as a survey and a comment map. We used the comments regarding air quality and socio-economic factors we heard to develop the draft criteria to identify overburdened communities highly impacted by air pollution. Here are some of the common themes we heard:

 Air quality

  • Transportation
  • Agriculture and livestock
  • Land use/zoning
  • Ports
  • Wildfire smoke
  • Dust
  • Smoke from outdoor burning & wood stoves
  • Stationary facilities
    • For example, industrial, landfills, cement
  • Cumulative impacts
  • Interaction with high heat

Socio-economics

  • Health disparities
  • Race
  • Income
  • Outdoor workers
  • Unhoused people
  • Age — children and older adults

Ideas for change

  • Education
  • Regulation
  • Grant programs
  • Increased access to air quality information

Outside our scope

These issue areas could not be integrated into the draft criteria as they are outside the scope of air quality issues that Ecology is directed to focus on in the Climate Commitment Act:

  • Odor
  • Air toxics
  • Indoor air quality
  • Methane

Next steps for engagement

We will reach out again in late summer 2022 with a timeline update for the next engagement opportunity to provide feedback on the draft criteria to identify overburdened communities highly-impacted by air pollution. We greatly appreciate your time and the valuable insight your feedback provides to this process.

Future work

Based on the expanded air quality monitoring network, we will work with local governments, local clean air agencies, Tribes, and other stakeholders to:

  • Review and evaluate air quality in these areas in periodic intervals.
  • Develop new emission control mechanism and potential regulations to address criteria air pollution in the identified communities.
  • Identify the future emission control mechanism that will be developed through separate processes, with additional opportunities for engagement.