Clearer skies ahead

Working to reduce air pollution in Washington’s overburdened communities

Help Ecology understand the impacts of air pollution in your community at upcoming listening sessions

Español | 中文 | Tiếng Việt | 한국어 | Русский – Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, and Russian language interpretation will be available live during the air quality listening sessions.

There’s nothing more important to health than the air we breathe. And air pollution affects all of us. But it doesn’t affect all of us equally. An obvious example is if you live near a highway, you’ll get more traffic pollution. If you live in an area prone to wildfires, you’ll get more smoke.

When the Legislature passed Washington’s big new climate law, the Climate Commitment Act, earlier this year, it wanted to make sure that cutting carbon pollution — another name for greenhouse gases – also reduced other types of air pollution in those communities that shoulder the greatest burden from pollution. Reducing greenhouse gases is essential to protect the state’s future, but we also need to address the pollution problems we have today.

To do that, we're working with local clean air agencies, local governments, Tribes, and local residents like you to understand where those pollution impacts are and determine what can be done about them. We’re holding a series of listening sessions in January 2022 to begin that process.

But wait, you might ask, doesn’t Ecology already know where the problems are? Yes and no. Ecology and our partners maintain a network of air quality monitors around the state to keep an eye on smoke, smog, and other forms of air pollution. But these sensors aren’t everywhere, and they can’t tell us everything we need to know to do the kind of deep dive the pollution reduction requirements in the Climate Commitment Act.

So, the first step in reducing air pollution in these overburdened areas will be:

  1. Identify an initial set of overburdened communities.
  2. Install new air quality monitors in these areas so we can get a closer look at the problems with air quality.

You can help with this. At these listening sessions, our scientists will explain how our monitoring network works, and some of the other demographic and environmental data we’re looking at. But we’re really there to hear from you. What are your concerns about pollution in your community? For that matter, how do you define “your community?” That could be a neighborhood, a district, or an entire town or city. Is air pollution worse in winter inversions, or summer heat? What factors affect the ability of residents to protect themselves from air pollution? Language access? Income? Job opportunities?  

Register for one the listening sessions:

  • 6 p.m. Jan. 18 - Eastern Washington (Register)
  • 6 p.m. Jan. 19 - Central Washington (Register)
  • 6 p.m. Jan. 20 - Western Washington (Register)

We’re breaking the sessions up by region to give community members a chance to hear from their neighbors and express similar concerns or to share information. Having said that, anyone may attend any session.

Additionally, we'll co-host additional public listening sessions with community organizations.

Whether or not you are able to attend one of these sessions, we want your input. A survey and comment map will be available from Jan. 11 – March 31 to serve as an additional option to share feedback and learn about the process for this Improving Air Quality in Overburdened Communities initiative.

Want to learn more about this process and stay up-to-date on what’s happening? Sign up for the email list for Improving Air Quality in Overburdened Communities. We’ll also share a link on that list as soon as the survey and comment map are live: Sign-up here

Map of air quality monitors in the Methow Valley.

Community air quality monitors — like these in the Methow Valley — are an example of existing monitoring that will be combined with expanded air monitoring networks in overburdened communities.

Next steps

From the public input received between January and March, we'll create draft criteria for identifying overburdened communities. We will then present those draft criteria to the Environmental Justice Council, which is a new public oversight board established to ensure Washington state agencies are addressing these types of disproportionate impacts from pollution. And finally, we'll hold a public comment period to solicit feedback on the proposed criteria.

Based on that feedback, we'll finalize the initial list of communities for the expanded monitoring effort, and share the list with the council and the public.

Once the development process is complete, we plan to begin placing new air quality monitors in the identified communities.

Questions may be sent to Caroline Mellor, CCA Environmental Justice Planner at Please email Caroline if your organization would like learn more about opportunities to co-host additional listening sessions with Ecology.