Developing a Framework for Effective Air Quality Management

3.3 Setting Air Quality Goals for a Region

3.3.5 Consequences of Not Meeting Air Quality Standards
Clearly, the public health and welfare are significant consequences when air quality standards are not met. However, these consequences are often not easily observed and the political process in urban areas can be induced to ignore them. The United States 1970 Clean Air Act contained requirements for meeting air quality standards and a timeline of 5 years. The timeline was unreasonably short and this played a role in cities not meeting air quality standards as required. It is also important to note that there were no “consequences” to city and county governments set forth in the 1970 Clean Air Act amendments if steps where not taken to meet air quality standards. Thus, the city and county governments had fewer incentives to take an aggressive approach and were thus reluctant to take regulatory actions that might be unpopular with the public or the business community. This deficiency was corrected in the 1977 Clean Air Act. In this law, provisions were made to withhold millions of dollars in funds for road construction and to stop the expansion of polluting industries if an appropriate air quality plan was not developed and implemented to meet air quality standards. The threat of the loss of road construction funds and the stoppage of business growth has been enough to spur many urban areas in the United States to adopt unpopular air pollution control measures and has contributed to the improvement of air quality in almost all cities in the United States.

The bottom line is that it is important to set air quality goals including timelines to allow an effective the air quality management process.