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Proposed EPA Conformity Rule Would Allow Increased

Pollution From Highways, Threatening Public Health:

A Review of Impacts in 12 Cities


By Michael Replogle, Dr. John Balbus, M.D.,
and Tracy Freuder

Revised Edition, December 22, 2003

1875 Connecticut Ave. NW


Washington, DC 20036

Summary

A review of data in 12 metropolitan areas suggests that motor vehicle emissions that cause
metropolitan ozone, or “smog” pollution, could grow by one tenth to one half in the 2005-
2010 period in various seriously polluted metropolitan areas if the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) adopts its proposed transportation conformity regulation related the transition
from the 1-hour ozone standard to the 8-hour ozone standard. EPA is taking comments on
the rule until Monday, December 22.

Starting next year, EPA’s proposal would allow dozens of metropolitan areas with unhealthful
air quality to disregard established pollution limits in smog control plans. EPA’s proposal
would allow highway pollution to grow back to the levels of 2002, when there were numerous
violations of the 8-hour ozone standard, rather than ensuring continuing further progress in
pollution reduction as the law requires. As Table 1 shows, this could allow pollution from
motor vehicles to increase in every one of a dozen major metropolitan areas examined. This
EPA proposal would remove critical public health protections in these metro areas before new
smog standards are in force, rolling back existing clean air safeguards. This is likely to result in
additional hospital emergency room visits and increased exposure of millions of Americans to
hazardous mobile source air toxics.

Despite significantly cleaner vehicles and fuel, highways remain among the largest sources of
emissions that form health-threatening smog, accounting for a quarter to more than half of
the nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compound pollution across America now and into the
foreseeable future.
Background

Transportation conformity is intended to ensure that actual emissions from motor vehicles
stay within the pollution limits established by states to meet health based air quality standards.
Conformity was strengthened in the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments so that transportation
plans would no longer routinely undermine progress towards healthful air quality as they had
repeatedly since the 1970 Clean Air Act.

In the past few years, transportation conformity has begun to operate fully with the adoption
of the motor vehicle emissions budgets (MVEBs) as part of the attainment State
Implementation Plans (SIPs). This has spurred support for cleaner vehicles, fuels, and
maintenance, and strategies to curb traffic and pollution growth with better travel choices. It
has resulted in better coordination among transportation and air quality agencies.

In 1997, in response to compelling evidence that the adopted 1-hour ozone health standard
was not adequately protecting public health, EPA adopted a more stringent 8-hour ozone
National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS). EPA’s authority to adopt this new
standard was challenged all the way to the Supreme Court by industry where the standard was
upheld. After long delay, in 2002, EPA settled a lawsuit with environmental groups to
establish a firm timetable for implementing the new standard, agreeing to designate new 8-
hour ozone non-attainment areas by April 2004, with the expectation that most areas would
submit to EPA new 8-hour SIPs with motor vehicle emission budgets by April 2007.

EPA’s Proposed Conformity Rule For Transition to 8-Hour Ozone Standard

EPA published for public comment on October 22, 2003 a proposed conformity rule to
govern the transition from the 1-hour to the 8-hour ozone standard. In this document EPA
made clear its intention to revoke the 1-hour ozone standard one year following final
designation of new 8-hour ozone areas, in April 2005 and negate adopted motor vehicle
emissions budgets for 1-hour SIPs that are a foundation of the transportation conformity
process. As a result, this proposal would disable conformity for many years in our nation’s
most polluted areas like Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York, and Chicago, effectively
removing most pollution controls from highway construction and transportation planning for
many years. This would allow large increases in motor vehicle emissions, as documented by
this study for a sample of major metropolitan areas.

EPA proposes to instead allow metro areas to demonstrate conformity using any of several
alternative tests. This puts states in a position where they are forced to balance the protection
of public health against a desire to increase highway construction, rather than finding
solutions that protect human health and improve mobility. Among the conformity tests that
EPA proposes to substitute is a “2002 baseline test” using motor vehicle emissions from 2002
as the level not to be exceeded. Application of this test in place of the adopted 1-hour motor

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vehicle emission budgets would allow motor vehicle emissions to increase after April 2005 to
2002 levels until new MVEBs are adopted for the 8-hr NAAQS.

These new 8-hour budgets will not become available until 2007 at the earliest, and it is likely
that 8-hour attainment SIPs will not actually be submitted and approved for several years after
that for most of the areas that are examined in this report, which will likely be designated
serious or severe under the 8-hr NAAQS. Under EPA’s proposal, areas could approve new
transportation plans so long as transportation emissions levels are less than 2002 levels. Since
2002 levels are well above the MVEBs established in the 1-hour SIP to achieve attainment,
this could trigger approval of many pollution-inducing highway projects without any truly
effective air pollution controls.

Analysis of Emission Increases Allowable Under EPA’s Proposed Conformity Rule

To evaluate how EPA’s proposed conformity rule might affect future emissions, we examined
available data for several specific metropolitan areas.

• Table 1 shows estimated mobile source emissions for 2002 and for the attainment year
or other SIP deadline year for selected areas.

• Table 2 shows the total allowable emissions in the SIP for different ozone-related
pollutants for selected areas.

• Table 3 shows the number of violations of the ozone standard in 2002 by state,
suggesting the likely effect of allowing motor vehicle pollution to rise back to 2002
emission levels in coming years.

• Table 4 shows the share of total ozone-related emissions that are expected to be due to
mobile sources in coming years, even with cleaner fuels and motor vehicles.

Older vs. Newer Emission Estimates

This examination of emission changes over time is dependent on the use of a variety of data
sources. In January 2002, EPA released new mobile source emission estimation computer
software, called Mobile 6, which supercedes the older software, Mobile 5. Our examination of
data seeks to identify which emission estimation tool was used for each number cited.

In Chicago, an initial estimate of the 2002 baseline data (using Mobile 6) shows that VOC
and NOX would be allowed to increase to 44% and 56% respectively above the level of the
emissions budgets currently approved in the 1-hour SIP budgets for Chicago’s attainment
date of 2007, as shown in Figure 1. A similar analysis in metropolitan Washington, DC
shows the EPA rule would allow a 29% and 24% increase in VOC and NOx. In other cities,
using Mobile 5 data, a comparison of past emissions budgets for 2002 vs. 2005 and 2007

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attainment budgets shows that under the proposed rule emissions would be allowed to
increase by up to 20% over the attainment budgets allowed in the 1-hour SIPs.

However, it is well accepted that Mobile 6 more correctly reflects the true emissions
compared with Mobile 5 computer model. An EPA analysis shows that Mobile 5 significantly
underestimated NOx and VOC emissions compared to Mobile 6 especially in years prior to
2007, with the Mobile 5 emission underestimation problem becoming more acute the farther
back in time one looks. This is illustrated in Figures 1 and 2, which are drawn from the
Mobile 6 On-Road Motor Vehicle Emissions Model 5-Day Training Course, September 10, 2001,
available at http://www.epa.gov/otaq/m6.htm#m6train. Thus, our preliminary analysis
suggests that the data for Chicago and Washington, DC, using Mobile 6 presents a more
accurate measure of the likely increase in mobile source emissions that would be allowable
under the 2002 baseline test vs. the adopted 2005 or 2007 SIP motor vehicle emission budget
test. Unfortunately, 2002 baseline estimates using Mobile 6 are not readily available yet for
some metropolitan areas.

Our preliminary evaluation strongly suggests that it would be prudent for EPA and the states
to carefully review the latest emission estimates using Mobile 6 so that the implications of the
proposed EPA rule for all non-attainment areas can be understood before this rule is
finalized.

Motor Vehicles: A Pollution Problem

Motor vehicle emissions represent a quarter to a half of the source of ozone precursor
emissions in most US cities that are in non-attainment of the 1-hour standard, as Table 4
shows. An increase in motor vehicle emissions means that total emissions in an air shed will
exceed the level needed for attainment. The serious and severe ozone non-attainment areas
examined in this study will not attain the 1-hour national ambient air quality standard if all
the emissions reductions assumed in the attainment demonstrations are not achieved. This
assertion is based on modeling analyses that demonstrate that SIPs will not attain the ozone
NAAQS without further reductions and EPA’s SIP approvals, based on weight of the
evidence analyses, that demonstrate only marginal attainment with some highly questionable
assumptions. For example, EPA’s proposed rule, if adopted, would allow motor vehicle
emissions of nitrogen oxides to increase by 56% in metropolitan Chicago, where these
emissions represent 5% of the total attainment year inventory. This could result in a 28%
increase in total airshed nitrogen oxide emissions in 2007. Such an emission increase would
cause serious damage to public health and to the ability of state and local officials to develop
new 8-hour ozone attainment strategies.

Effects of Going Back to Year 2000 Pollution Levels on Number of Dirty Air Days

Looking at 2002 ozone data in Table Three, we can get an approximation of what future air
quality is likely to be as long as motor vehicle emissions are allowed to remain at 2002 levels.
For example, in the District of Columbia there were 9 exceedences of the 1-hour standard

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and 44 exceedences of the 8-hour standard in 2002. This provides a rough idea of what ozone
levels are likely to be in years after 2005 if motor vehicle emissions are allowed to rise to 2002
levels instead of being reduced to the levels required for 2005 in the 1-hour SIP.

These significant increases in allowable motor vehicle emissions for future years almost
certainly guarantee that if EPA’s proposed rule is adopted these areas:
• will not attain the 1-hr NAAQS,
• will experience more severe and more frequent violations of the 1-hour and 8-hour
NAAQS after April 2005 than they would otherwise, and
• will experience significantly delayed progress toward attainment of the 8-hr NAAQS.
These outcomes would violate the conformity requirements of the Clean Air Act, section
176(c)(1)(B).

Effects of EPA’s Proposal on Public Health

In the past decade, the science linking emissions from the transportation sector to public
health has confirmed, time and again, the powerful link between health and the environment.
The increased emissions that would result from this proposed EPA rule could cause great
harm to those already suffering from health problems related to poor air quality

The facts on the harmful effects of ozone are clear. Asthmatics and others with lung diseases
are sickened by exposure to elevated ozone levels. When ozone levels are high, more people
suffer asthma attacks, more children are transported to emergency rooms, and more
asthmatics are hospitalized. When ozone levels go down, as was shown in the study of
Atlanta during the summer Olympics of 1996, fewer people suffer asthma attacks, and fewer
asthmatic children wind up in emergency rooms and hospitals.1 A recent study has
documented that ozone sickens asthmatic children at levels well below the new eight hour
standard of 80 parts per billion.2 Ozone impairs lung development in healthy children as
well.3 Several studies have documented poorer lung development in children from high ozone
4,5
areas compared to those from low ozone areas.
1
Friedman MS, Powell KE, Hutwagner L, Graham LM, Teague WG. Impact of changes in transportation and
commuting behaviors during the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta on air quality and childhood asthma.
JAMA 2001; 285(7):897-905.
2
Gent JF, Triche EW, Holford TR, Belanger K, Bracken MB, Beckett WS et al. Association of low-level ozone
and fine particles with respiratory symptoms in children with asthma. JAMA 2003; 290(14):1859-1867.
3
McConnell R, Berhane K, Gilliland F, London SJ, Islam T, Gauderman WJ et al. Asthma in exercising
children exposed to ozone: a cohort study. Lancet 2002; 359(9304):386-391.
4
Frischer T, Studnicka M, Gartner C, Tauber E, Horak F, Veiter A et al. Lung function growth and ambient
ozone: a three-year population study in school children
Am J Respir Crit Care Med 1999; 160(2):390-396.
5
Gauderman WJ, Gilliland GF, Vora H, Avol E, Stram D, McConnell R et al. Association between air pollution
and lung function growth in southern California children: results from a second cohort
Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2002; 166(1):76-84.

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Conclusion

It is essential that EPA keep in place the motor vehicle emission budgets in approved ozone
SIPs and control strategies for motor vehicles under the 1-hour national ambient air quality
standards until the one hour standards are attained and until new attainment SIPs with motor
vehicle emissions budgets have been approved for the eight-hour standard. Otherwise, EPA
will authorize backsliding towards dirtier air in America’s most polluted metropolitan areas,
with lengthy delay in attainment of healthful air quality.

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Table 1: Estimated mobile source emissions for 2002 and for the Attainment Year or Other SIP Deadline Year for Selected Areas
Area 2002 2005 2007 VOC: VOC: 2002 2005 2007 NOx: NOx: Composite Total Increase Increase
MVEB MVEB MVEB Percent Percent MVEB MVEB MVEB %Change %Change increase Increase as % of as % of
VOC VOC VOC Change Change NOx NOx NOx 02vs05 02vs07 (NOx&VOC) tons/ total VOC total NOx
tons/ tons/ tons/ 02vs05 02vs07 tons/ tons/ tons/ Day (all (all
day day day day day day sources) sources)

Atlanta1,2 364.5 318.24 15% 46.26


Boston (Eastern,
MA) 128 87 47% 301 226 33% 37% 116

Baltimore 54 45.6 18% 112.6 96.9 16% 17% 24.1 4% 4%

Chicago2 183 127.42 44% 438 280.4 56% 52% 213.18 8% 28%

Houston 99.21 79.51 25% 260.85 156.6 67% 52% 123.95 3% 34%
Los Angeles
South Coast Air
3,4
Basin 273.1 80.73 61% 526.8 277.8 238% 123% 441.37 29% 33%
Milwaukee 43.5 32.2 35% 103.5 71.4 45% 42% 43.4 6% 13%

New York,6 179.1 162.6 11% 265.9 221 20% 16% 63 2% 15%

Philadelphia 69.52 61.76 13% 93.13 86.42 8% 10% 14.47 2% 2%


San Joaquin
3
Valley 98.8 78.9 25% 210.7 179.7 17% 20% 50.9
San Francisco
3,5
Bay Area 214.10 164.00 31% 330.80 270.30 22% 25% 110.60 11% 12%
Washington
2
DC/MD/VA 125.20 97.40 29% 290.30 234.70 24% 25% 83.40 9% 11%
1
The attainment date for Atlanta is 2004. The column labeled 2005 MVEB actually shows 2004 MVEB and the NOX percent change shown is 04 vs 02.
2
Budgets are based on Mobile 6 data (unless otherwise specified, all other areas show Mobile 5 data)
3
California budgets are based on EMFAC, EMFAC2000 for San Francisco, EMFAC2002 for San Joaquin Valley and South Coast.
4
The attainment date for South Coast is 2010. The column labeled 2007 MVEB actually shows 2010 MVEB and the percent change columns compare 2010 with
2002. Data from website of SCAQMD 12/22/03.
5
San Francisco's attainment date is 2006. The column labeled 2005 MVEB actually shows 2006 MVEB and the percent change columns compare 2006 with 2002.
6
New York 2007 emission values are emission inventories that do not demonstrate attainment. The “2007 VOC reduction target” is 708 tpd which is 16 tpd less
than the “2007 SIP control strategies emissions.” further reductions are needed. The “2007 NOx reduction target” is 208 tpd, which is 311 tpd less than the 619
tpd 2007 emission inventory. Added control strategies mostly from non-mobile sources have been identified by NY DEC.

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Table 1 Continued
Area Notes/Sources
Atlanta 11/17/03 ROP SIP
Boston (Eastern, Attainment SIP, Personal
MA) Communication MA DEP
Baltimore Attainment SIP. Personal
Communication EPA R3
Chicago Personal Communication Illinois
2002 data is an initial baseline
estimate. 2007 is approved
attainment budget
Houston Post 1999 ROP and Attainment
Demo SIP 10/26/01
ROP Budgets
Los Angeles South South Coast Air Quality
Coast Air Basin Management District
2003 Air Quality Management Plan

Milwaukee 66FRN 56931 11/13/2001


2002 ROP Budget 2007
ROP/Attainment Budget
New York 67FR5170 2/4/02 Attainment SIP

Philadelphia 66FR54143 10/26/01


Post 1996-ROP plan
San Joaquin Valley San Joaquin Valley draft ROP plan

San Francisco Bay Attainment SIP


Area
Washington 12/12/03 Draft SIP Demonstrating
DC/MD/VA Rate of Progress for 2002 and 2005

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Table 2

Total Allowable Emissions in the SIP for Different Ozone-Related Pollutants for Selected Areas
Area Total Allowable Total Allowable Source/Notes
VOC for NOX for
attainment attainment
Tons/Day Tons/Day
Baltimore 230.74 352.42 Personal Communication MDE,
Attainment SIP
Chicago 700 564 12/11 Personal Communication IL EPA,
Attainment SIP

Houston 573 305.4 Attainment Demonstration SIP 12/2000

Los Angeles South 659.37 764.18


Coast Air Basin 2003 Air Quality Management Plan.
Numbers do not come from an
Attainment SIP
Milwaukee 182.4 249.8 Personal Communication WI DNR,
Attainment SIP
New York 708 308 NY DEC Air Resources personal
communication 1222/03
Philadelphia 425 310 Attainment SIP Feb 200 Rev.

San Francisco 445 525 Attainment SIP October 2001

Washington DC/MD/VA 325.4 487.3 Attainment Demonstration SIP 12/2000

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Table 3 – from PIRG Analysis of 2002 air quality violations at
http://www.uspirg.org/reports/dangerintheair2003/dangerintheair2003.pdf

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Table 3 Continued

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Table 4
Information from Regions about Composition of Inventory
April 17, 2002

Area O3 Class. Year Type of Pollutnt % % % %


SIP Point On Non Area
road road

Greater CT serious 1999 ROP NOx 27 43 - -

CT portion of NY- severe 17 2002 ROP NOx 24 39 - -


NJ-Long Island
2005 ROP NOx 23 35 - -

2007 ROP NOx 25 31 - -

Boston (E. Mass) serious 1999 ROP NOx 19 45 - -

Springfield, MA serious 1999 ROP NOx 12 63 - -

Hancock County marginal 1993 attain NOx 33 58 on - -


and Waldo County, road +
ME transit

2006 maint NOx 33 57 on - -


road +
transit

Portland, ME moderate 1999 draft NOx 20 74 - -


attain

2012 draft NOx 25 67 - -


attain

NH portion of serious 1999 ROP NOx 2 76 - -


Boston area

Portsmouth-Dover- serious 1999 ROP NOx 42 45 - -


Rochester, NH

Providence (all of serious 1999 ROP NOx 13 55 - -


RI)

Washington DC - serious 2005 attain VOC 5 28 20 46


MD - VA
NOx 20 39 25 14

Baltimore, MD severe 2005 ROP VOC 20 22 17 42

NOx 43 30 22 4

Philadelphia, PA severe 2005 attain VOC 31 16 16 37

NOx 47 28 13 12

Atlanta serious 2004 attain VOC 12 total mobile: 62 27

12
Area O3 Class. Year Type of Pollutnt % % % %
SIP Point On Non Area
road road

NOx 21 total mobile: 7


73

Cincinnati 1996 VOC 31 32 area + nonroad:


37

NOx 65 26 9

2010 VOC 38 19 43

NOx 73 16 12

Columbus 2005 VOC 10 31 59

NOx 8 33 59

Indianapolis 2006 VOC 17 38 32 12

NOx 24 37 21 18

Chicago 2007 VOC 19 45 area + nonroad:


36

(NOx figures are statewide:) NOx 36 61 4

Milwaukee, WI severe 2007 attain VOC 21 19 15 45


(includes NOx ctrls
on lg indust NOx 39 30 18 13
sources, I/M, Tier
II/Low sulfur,
various rules for sm.
indust. sources)

Sheyboygan, WI maint 2007 maint VOC 32 15 10 44


(same ctrls as
Milwaukee) NOx 68 15 11 5

Detroit, MI (does maint 2005 1994 VOC 21 24 area + nonroad


not include NLEV, maint 55
Tier II/Low sulfur) plan
NOx 58 25 17

Houston 1996 VOC 8 8 7 10


base (67%
case biogen)
invtry

NOx 54 24 21 1

Dallas/Fort Worth 1996b VOC 23 28 21 4


ase (24%
case biogen)

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Area O3 Class. Year Type of Pollutnt % % % %
SIP Point On Non Area
road road

NOx 13 50 33 4

Beaumont 1996 VOC (77% 13 4 3 3


base biogen)
case

NOx 78 12 9 1

San Antonio expected 8 1996 VOC (42% 20 22 15 1


hour area base biogen)
case

NOx 27 49 23 1

Austin expected 8 1996 VOC (66% 1 11 10 12


hour area base biogen)
case

NOx 15 45 36 4

Kansas City 1999 NOx 38 42 25 23


R8's % total more base
than 100 line

St. Louis 1995/1 NOx 49 32 17 32


R8's %s total more 996
than 100 base
case

Denver 1993 VOC 16 40

NOx 37 41

2006 VOC 21 34

NOx 40 38

2013 VOC 23 30

NOx 41 39

Salt Lake/Davis 1996 VOC 8 44


County
NOx 16 47

2005 VOC 10 38

NOx 19 43

2015 VOC 10 38

NOx 18 45

2020 VOC 10 38

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Area O3 Class. Year Type of Pollutnt % % % %
SIP Point On Non Area
road road

NOx 16 44

Las Vegas N/A 1996 CO 1 85 12 2

2000 CO 2 80 16 3

2010 CO 2 77 17 4

2020 CO 1 79 17 3

Las Vegas N/A 1998 PM10 1 35 <1 62

24 hr PM10 1 18 1 82
invtry

2001 PM10 1 53 <1 45

Las Vegas 24 hr PM10 <1 37 <1 62


invtry

2006 24 hr PM10 <1 71 <1 26


invtry

South Coast 2000 VOC 36

NOx 56

2020 VOC 13

NOx 49

2000 PM10 56

2020 PM10 56 - 59

Bay Area 2000 VOC 43

NOx 54

2006 VOC 42

NOx 52

Phoenix (does not 1996 VOC 8 32


include RFG)

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Figure 1

Figure 2

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