March 3, 1997
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

We are pleased with the opportunity to provide comment on the revisions proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone and particulate matter. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has a critical interest in the proposals both as an agency responsible for implementing many of the air quality programs affected by the proposals, as well as the state-level agency in Kansas responsible for developing and implementing statewide programs designed to protect the public health in our state. It goes without saying, that the protection of the health of the citizens of Kansas is of paramount importance to our agency and our state. On this basis, our comments are presented primarily from the perspective of an implementing agency. The health effects research referenced by the EPA has not been the subject of critical review by our agency.

The state of Kansas is proud of its air quality and recognizes the importance of clean air to the health of its citizens, its environment, and its economy. Kansas is currently attainment for all ambient air quality standards statewide. Past successes are attributed to the ability of local, state, and federal government agencies across the state to work effectively with affected business interests, special interest groups, and the general public to promote improvements in air quality. These relationships are critical to continued success in our air quality programs.

Although many questions remain relative to the technical requirements and implementations costs for these complex proposals, our most fundamental concerns lie in two areas.

The first of these involves the shortage of information and apparent inconsistencies in that information which is available on the characteristics and origins of the particles targeted by the proposal to establish a new fine particle particulate matter (PM-2.5) standard. The particles of greatest concern are being distinguished from the coarse particles currently regulated on the basis that they are characteristically different (e.g., combustion-related, soluble, chemically-reactive, etc.) and that they originate from different sources including processes that result in the formation of secondary particles from gaseous precursors. However, emission information pertaining to the sources of~f primary~~ PM-2.5 particles indicates that a significant overlap occurs between the fine and coarse fractions of many sources of fugitive dust; including paved roads, unpaved roads, and windblown dust. This confusion has been exacerbated by the lack of PM-2.5 air monitoring data in rural states. As a result, the fugitive dust component of PM-2.5 emissions in the rural areas of the United States may represent a source of exposure not intended to be implicated as a target of concern by the health studies completed primarily in the larger urban areas of the United States. It seems apparent that adequate study has not been completed of the sources and health implications of exposure to PM-2.5 particles in rural areas. Because of these concerns, our agency will be providing comment to EPA that additional speciated air monitoring information be collected to assess the role of fugitive dust in the PM-2.5 standard proposal and to more accurately characterize the particles of concern. Ideally, this information would be available prior to ~final decision-making on the new particulate matter standard.

Our second major area of concern involves the potential impact of the proposed revision to the ozone standard in Kansas City. Historically, ozone has been a concern in Kansas primarily in the metropolitan area of Kansas City. A five-county area in Kansas City (including Johnson and Wyandotte counties in Kansas) was declared an ozone nonattainment area in the late 1970's and remained as such until 1992 when the area was federally-approved for redesignation to attainment. In order to gain attainment status, the states of Kansas and Missouri were required to demonstrate to EPA that compliance with the standard could be maintained into the future and a long-term maintenance plan was approved. Hot weather conditions experienced during the summer of 1995 resulted in a total of nine exceedances of the standard spread across four of the six ozone monitoring sites maintained throughout the five-county area. These exceedances resulted in a regulatory violation at one of the monitoring locations. The resulting violation triggered implementation of contingency provisions in the maintenance plan designed to respond to future findings of air quality problems. This response was organized through a regional air quality forum consisting of a broad coalition of interested parties including state, local, and federal government representatives, local businesses, environmental groups, and members of the public. A series of recommendations for enhancements to the emission control, transportation management, and air-related public education programs in Kansas City emerged from this group. These recommendations include actions above those required as the minimum in the maintenance plan approved for the area. Forum members arrived at a clear consensus that continued progress to prevent further air quality problems in Kansas City was in the best interest of the city now and in the future. State and local governments (including the regional planning organization) are currently preparing plans and adopting regulations to implement the recommendations of the Kansas City air quality forum.

Although air quality progress continues in Kansas City under its current maintenance plan, the proposed revision to a 0.08 ppm (eight-hour average, third high) standard will result in the return of the Kansas City area to nonattainment status. By way of comparison to the existing standard, the excursions during 1995 resulted in a total of three days of air quality problems. If the revision proposed had been in effect in 1995, the area would have experienced a total of 17 air quality problem days. Compliance with such a standard will be very difficult. If the lower range proposed (0.07 ppm, eight-hour average, first high) had been in effect, a total of 31 problem days would have occurred. Even the highest range proposed (0.09 ppm, 8-hour average, fifth high) would have increased the number of problem days in 1995 from three to seven even though the 0.09 ppm proposal is presented as being roughly equivalent to the current standard.

While we believe the scientific advisers to EPA, and the EPA itself, should be applauded for openly acknowledging their difficulties in arriving at a single, discrete level for a revised ozone standard, the differences in the impact to implementing agencies (and associated health implications) between a 0.07 ppm standard and a 0.09 ppm standard are pronounced in Kansas. The lower range proposed (0.O7 ppm, eight-hour average, first high) has been exceeded in far western Kansas in a rural community with a population of 4,800 residents.

Despite the wide range of numerical options presented in the proposal, the recommended level of 0.08 ppm (third high) creates a discrete regulatory compliance level that will have significant impact in Kansas City. As noted previously, the attainment status of the area would most certainly return to nonattainment at a time during which a broad community effort was encouraging additional air quality control measures well above the minimum required under the area's maintenance plan. The current impetus for these actions has been the community consensus to make a "clean" city cleaner. Upon return to a nonattainment status, there is great concern that the impetus will change to one that attempts to make a "dirty" city cleaner. This shift from a community process to a regulatory process may reduce the value of community involvement in the implementation of air quality initiatives when faced with new regulatory agency mandates. We have deep concerns that this change will polarize affected interests and delay further progress in Kansas City. Del~ays in actual air quality improvements may also occur as a result of implementing agencies having to begin a new, extended planning process including modeling and attainment plan development. The time frame for developing a new attainment plan will be long in comparison to the much shorter time frame involved in continuing progress under the maintenance process. The depth of the impacts of the proposed 0.08 ppm standard in Kansas City has prompted our agency to prepare comments for submittal to EPA that encourages retention of the existing standard until the attainment/nonattainment designation process can be reformed. Such reforms would recognize the uncertainties involved in establishing a discrete ozone compliance level and the value of establishing a tiered regulatory approach.

Again, we appreciate the opportunity to bring this information before the Subcommittee.

Submitted by: Ronald F. Hammerschmidt, Ph.D.
Director, Division of Environment
Kansas Department of Health and Environment