If I may, I would first like to say a few words about North Little Rock, our regional planning agency and the central Arkansas area. which I am heir representing. North Little Rock is located across from Little Rock on the Arkansas River. We are a community of approximately 65,000 persons and a destination for many others who work or shop in our city. The air quality monitors that are used to determine violations of the ozone standard in central Arkansas are located in North Little Rock.
North Little Rock is a member of Metroplan, which is a council of local governments and the designated metropolitan planning organization, or MPO, for the Little Rock-North Little Rock Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). Metroplan has twenty-two (22) member governments, plus the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD), and the Central Arkansas transit Authority (CATA). Metroplan is an example of the cooperative spirit that has developed in central Arkansas among elected officials and other community leaders in the area.
Little Rock is the State Capital and located approximately in the geographic center of the state. Our region is also located at the center of the state's transportation and distribution network. It is the largest metropolitan area in the state, with over 550,000 residents and over 300,000 workers. Our economy is healthy and growing. Employment in the four- county area is concentrated in the services (29%), trade (24%), and government (19%) sectors. During the 5-year period between 1990 and 1995, total MSA population grew by 5.3 percent, while employment increased 11.3 percent.
Now regarding the air quality in central Arkansas, we have been in attainment of all national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) since 1983. However, there have been several exceedances of the ozone standard, although these have been such rare events that our attainment status has remained unchanged. Even without the control measures that could have accompanied nonattainment, we have seen a general reduction in our ozone levels during the last 10 years. We mainly attribute this to turnover in the vehicle fleet, wherein newer cleaner vehicles have gradually replaced older more polluting vehicles. Somewhat milder summer temperatures may have also helped to improve our air quality in recent years. Violations of the particulate matter standards have not even been an issue, since the PM-10 standards were adopted in 1987. In recognition of our clean air status, approximately one and one-half years ago an areawide coalition of alternative fuel and clean air stakeholders was put together, which led to our designation by the U. S. Department of Energy as the Central Arkansas Clean Cities Area. Data and charts illustrating the air quality history of central Arkansas are attached to my written statement.
Since EPA proposed changes to the ozone and particulate matter standards, at least two sets of comments have been adopted by community leaders in our area.
On February 24, 1997, the North Little Rock City Council adopted a resolution urging Congress to retain the existing national ambient air quality standards for ozone and particulate matter. We indicated that the impact of the current standards and control programs should be assessed before imposing more stringent requirements. Our resolution also urged Congress to overturn the court-ordered deadlines for promulgation of new particulate matter standards, and indicated that BPA should first institute adequate and appropriate monitoring of fine particulates before promulgating any new standards for PM-2.5. A copy of the resolution is attached to my written statement.
Last week, on February 26, 1997, the Metroplan Board of Directors unanimously approved comments regarding EPA's proposed air quality standards for both ozone and fine particulate matter. While Metroplan's comments are attached to my written statement, I would like to briefly summarize them here.
With respect to the proposed ozone standard the Metroplan Board's comments indicate that:
-- We can support an 8-hour concentration based standard, because it is more directly associated with the health effects cited in exposure studies and there is scientific agreement on this issue.
-- The conventional rounding convention should be maintained with respect to determining violations, due to the same data accuracy concerns that CPA has cited in their proposals.
-- We do not support EPA's proposal to use the average third-highest daily maximum, set at 0.08 parts per million, because the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee could not achieve a consensus on either the appropriate level or form for an 8-hour standard.
-- We believe that an 8-hour ozone standard would afford improved protection over the current standard for persons at risk if based on either the third-highest daily maximum set at 0.09 parts per million or the fifth-highest daily maximum set 0.08 parts per million.
With respect to the proposed PM-2.5 standards the Metroplan Board's comments indicate that:
-- At present, there is no monitoring program for PM-2.5 and very little data regarding the extent and sources of PM-2.5. This is problematic for a variety of reasons. For example, if natural sources are a major component of PM-2.5, controlling man-made sources may not be an effective approach. In addition, what if all metropolitan areas or large agricultural districts or national forests were designated in nonattainment of the PM-2.5 standards?
-- Nonattainment of the proposed PM-2.5 standards could severely impact metropolitan areas, due to the connection between the Clean Air Act Amendments and ISTEA. For example, areas designated in nonattainment would have limitations on the type of transportation projects that could be implemented. MPOs would also have to prove "conformity" with the State Implementation Plan (SIP) for air quality control, before most projects would be approved by EPA. This would result in more project delays and increase both MPO and project costs. In addition, limited or reduced Federal funding for public transit conflicts with more restrictive air quality standards, in that transit may be one of the major strategies for reducing emissions from mobile sources.
For these reasons, we think that fine particulates should be monitored by all states for a period of up to three years without regulation consequences to determine the extent and sources of PM-2.5. Afterwards, the standards should be subject to another public comment period. This decision on fine particulate standards should not be made without better data and understanding of the likely consequences.
In conclusion, it is fair to say that we are concerned about the consequences to our state and regional economies, if EPA's proposed changes are allowed to go into effect. The possibility exists that central Arkansas and West Memphis could be designated in nonattainment of the proposed ozone or particulate matter standards. Currently, businesses are attracted to central Arkansas and to our state, partly because we are in attainment of the clean air standards. If our clean air status changes our ability to attract new industry could be undermined, and perhaps, even some existing industry and jobs could be lost as well.
I ask that my written statement and attachments be placed in the official record of this hearing. I will attempt to respond to any questions you may have. Thank you!