Improving air quality in overburdened communities

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Important information

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We're working to improve air quality in 16 Washington communities that are historically overburdened with health, social, and environmental inequities and are highly impacted by criteria air pollution, such as ozone and fine particles. A section of the Climate Commitment Act directs this work.

We want to hear from the people most impacted in these places. Right now, we want to hear from community and Tribal members about the types of projects a community grant program should pay for. Your feedback will help us shape the direction of the grant program and make sure we're investing in projects that make a difference in your community.

New grant program

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Learn more about climate action in Washington.

In August 2024, we will open a new grant opportunity to reduce criteria air pollution in these overburdened communities, including Tribes that choose to participate in this work. $10 million will be available for organizations serving these communities to find and create projects that lower criteria air pollution. This will help improve people's health, by reducing problems such as asthma and lung problems. Sign up for email updates to be notified when we share more details.

These grants are paid for by funds from the Climate Commitment Act. The Climate Commitment Act supports Washington's climate action efforts by putting cap-and-invest dollars to work reducing climate pollution, creating jobs, and improving public health.

Communities identified as overburdened

We have already identified 16 areas in Washington that are overburdened and highly impacted by criteria air pollution. The places are a mix of urban, suburban, and rural. They vary in population, from about 1,500 to more than 200,000 people. They also range in area, from less than three square miles to 173 square miles. Together, they represent more than 1.2 million people or about 15.5% of Washington’s population.

This list is intended for the purposes outlined in the environmental justice review section of the Climate Commitment Act.

Community information

Each community listed in the table is linked to more information, specific boundaries, and the process we used to identify them. Click any column header in the table to sort the information.

Overburdened communities highly impacted by criteria air pollution
Area 1 Estimated Population Size (approximate square miles) Elevated Air Pollutants
Ellensburg 16,273 6 Fine particles (PM2.5), cumulative criteria air pollution
Everett 83,973 17 Fine particles (PM2.5)
George and West Grant County 2,206 118 Fine particles (PM2.5)
King County, South 204,300 68 Fine particles (PM2.5), cumulative criteria air pollution
Mattawa 4,398 12 Fine particles (PM2.5)
Moxee Valley 5,793 38 Fine particles (PM2.5), cumulative criteria air pollution
Puyallup, Northeast 9,574 3 Cumulative criteria air pollution
Seattle, North and Shoreline 39,997 5 Fine particles (PM2.5), cumulative criteria air pollution
Seattle, South 192,634 44 Fine particles (PM2.5), cumulative criteria air pollution
Spokane and Spokane Valley 147,407 42 Fine particles (PM2.5), cumulative criteria air pollution
Tacoma, South and East 133,463 28 Fine particles (PM2.5), cumulative criteria air pollution
Tri-Cities to Wallula 112,708 173 Particle pollution (PM2.5 and PM10), ozone, cumulative criteria air pollution
Vancouver 103,388 29 Fine particles (PM2.5), cumulative criteria air pollution
Wenatchee and East Wenatchee 32,183 10 Fine particles (PM2.5)
Yakima, East 59,803 16 Fine particles (PM2.5), cumulative criteria air pollution
Yakima Valley, Lower 54,838 157 Fine particles (PM2.5), cumulative criteria air pollution


1 All areas ranked high on the Washington Environmental Health Disparities map and/or EPA's EJScreen mapping tool. These tools show where vulnerable populations face more risk or exposure to pollution. We also looked at other factors:  social and economic differences, historic redlining, health care access, known health disparities (like increased asthma and lower life expectancy).

Next steps

Reducing criteria air pollution in identified communities will happen in stages over multiple years. Next steps include:

  • Continue to expand Washington's air monitoring network in the 16 communities.
  • Continue to ask for community input, including about the new grants program.
  • Work with Tribal governments that may be interested in participating in this work.
  • Collect and analyze data about criteria air pollutants affecting these communities.
  • Evaluate the need for rulemaking to protect air quality in the 16 communities.
  • Track and report every two years about criteria air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and health impacts in each community.
  • Re-evaluate the list of communities every six years.
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