Department of Ecology News Release - September 19, 2022

Public discussion begins on plans to improve air quality in overburdened communities

Initiative is key environmental justice provision in Washington’s Climate Commitment Act


The Washington Department of Ecology opens public comment today on a new initiative to improve air quality in overburdened communities that are highly impacted by air pollution.

The initiative is part of Washington’s landmark Climate Commitment Act, which the Legislature passed in 2021. It will eventually lead to new strategies for improving air quality in overburdened communities.

“Everyone deserves to breathe clean air, but we know that some communities in Washington are exposed to higher levels of air pollution than others,” said Ecology Director Laura Watson. “We’re excited about the opportunity this initiative presents to listen to people most impacted by air pollution and to develop new approaches to addressing this problem.”

Environmental justice refers to the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people, regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.

Under the Climate Commitment Act, Ecology must identify which Washington communities are vulnerable to “criteria” air pollution, expand air quality monitoring in these areas, and later develop plans to reduce these air pollutants. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies six criteria pollutants that contribute to health issues: particulate matter (PM2.5, PM10); ground-level ozone; sulfur dioxide; nitrogen dioxide; carbon monoxide; and lead.

This public engagement period will focus on the method for identifying overburdened communities highly impacted by air pollution. Ecology is seeking input from organizations, environmental justice advocates, Tribal governments, the general public, and disproportionately affected communities until Nov. 2, 2022.

Seven public comment sessions will be held online to maximize participation. In addition, Ecology has been engaging for several months with members of the Governor-appointed Environmental Justice Council to receive their recommendations on this initiative and will continue to seek the Council’s expertise.

How to comment
Submit comments online, by mail, voice mail, or in a public comment session.

       Erin Torrone 
       Department of Ecology
       P.O. Box 47600
       Olympia, WA  98504-7600

  • Leave a comment at 564-200-4426.

Public comment sessions
Ecology will provide seven online opportunities for public participation. The format for each session is an overview of the air quality initiative, followed by a question-and-answer period, and then public comment.

American Sign Language, real-time interpreters and educational materials in Korean, Simplified Chinese, Spanish, Russian and Vietnamese will be available.

Learn more

Contact information

Susan Woodward
Communications Manager