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U.S. EPA determines Phoenix dust storms not solely responsible for poor air quality

Release Date: 05/25/2010
Contact Information: Niloufar Glosson, 415-972-3684, glosson.niloufar@epa.qov

SAN FRANCISCO - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced that it rejected Arizona's
claim that dust storms caused the high pollution readings in Phoenix in 2008, a decision which
could have significant implications for the State.

Under the Clean Air Act, states must submit plans showing the EPA how the State will meet air
quality standards for certain pollutants. Arizona is currently not meeting the national standard
for particulate matter, PM- 10 (one-seventh the width of a human hair). Major concerns for
human health from exposure to PM- 10 include: effects on breathing and respiratory systems,
damage to lung tissue, cancer, and premature death. The elderly, children, and people with
chronic lung disease, influenza, or asthma, are especially sensitive to the effects of particulate

The State had asserted that dust storms were responsible for ten of the eleven unacceptably high
pollution spikes in Phoenix during 2008.

"After thoroughly reviewing the State's data, EPA air-quality scientists determined that a legally
significant number of pollution spikes were not the result of regional dust storms," said Jared
Blumenfeld, EPA Regional Administrator. "Therefore, the "exceptional events" were not
supported by the science," added Blumenfeld.

This finding will require EPA to initiate disapproval of the State's air quality control plan (PM-
10) for Phoenix. If a final disapproval is rendered, federal transportation funds to the state could
be frozen. In such a scenario, transportation funds would be withheld until the State submits an
adequate air quality plan (PM- 10) to EPA. The freeze would not affect current, approved
transportation plans and projects.

"I want to acknowledge the collaborative work that ADEQ, the Maricopa Association of
Governments, Maricopa County, and the City of Phoenix have done to address existing sources
of PM- 10," said Blumenfeld. EPA is committed to continuing to provide the State, regional and
local agencies technical expertise, monitoring equipment and funding to bring the State into
compliance. The federal government already provides $30 million annually to Arizona, through
the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program. These funds are available to be used to
reduce PM- 10 emissions.

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