XI. Air Quality



In nonattainment and maintenance areas, projects included shall be specified in sufficient detail (design concept and scope) to permit air quality analysis in accordance with the U.S. EPA conformity requirements.  23 CFR '450.324(h)


Text Box: O0

n November 15, 1990, President George Herbert Walker Bush signed the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 (CAAA90).  This legislation has had a fundamental impact on air quality and transportation-related air quality, as it related the effect of transportation on air quality problems.  The transportation sector was now required to be an active participant in the work to achieve attainment of the health-based National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).


Nonattainment areas are those geographic regions that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designates as not meeting one or more of the NAAQS due to monitored levels of pollutants.  Ozone (O3), carbon monoxide (CO) and particulate matter under 10 microns in diameter (PM10) were the primary transportation-related pollutants at the time.  The CAAA90 set severity classifications of non-attainment based on monitored air quality concentrations.  Each nonattainment area was given an attainment deadline depending on the severity of nonattainment; if an area’s monitored failed to meet the attainment date; it was “bumped up” to a higher severity and was subject to more stringent regulatory requirements.



Capital District Nonattainment Status

Based on NYSDEC’s monitored emissions data[i], EPA designated the Capital District to be a non-attainment area for the 1-hour Ozone standard in 1991; the severity level was set at “marginal”, and the attainment date set for November 11, 1993.  The non-attainment classification applies to the entire Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), which at that time covered the four urban counties (Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga and Schenectady) plus two rural counties (Montgomery and Greene).


In air quality nonattainment/maintenance areas, the MPO’s planning area boundary (MPA) is required to encompass the entire nonattainment area – unless the Governor and the MPO agree otherwise[ii].  After EPA’s designation, there was an extensive discussion whether the CDTC planning boundary should be expanded to include all six nonattainment counties.  Since they were (are) outside the area that was likely to become urbanized with the CDTC’s 20-year forecast, CDTC and the Governor decided to keep the existing planning boundary (the four urban counties) and let NYSDOT handle the two rural nonattainment counties.


In 1994, after several years of no monitored violations greater than allowable[iii], EPA announced that it was proposing a determination that the Capital District area has attained the NAAQS[iv].  However, the area has yet to be redesignated.  It was expected that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation would petition EPA during 1994/95 to reclassify the area as attainment; however, said petition has not yet been made, and thus the area remains as a marginal non-attainment area.  Based on monitored data, the Capital District has not been in violation of 1-hour ozone standard since 1989.    



Conformity of TIPs and Plans

Nonattainment areas, such as the Capital District, are subject to two sets of related regulations: the USDOT’s metropolitan transportation regulations (23 C.F.R. Part 450) and EPA’s transportation conformity regulations (40 C.F.R. Parts 51 and 93).  Basically, the transportation regulations say that projects in nonattainment areas that are proposed for funding with FHWA and FTA monies cannot proceed unless they come for an air quality “conforming” TIP and Plan. 


While an area’s attainment designation is based on the pollutant levels physically monitored by NYSDEC, the MPO must theoretically demonstrate that the implementation of projects and strategies in its TIP and Plan meet the tests established in the State Implementation Plan to enable the area to reach attainment.  This analysis process is known as the conformity process (i.e.; “conform” to the SIP).   The analysis is based on “modeled” levels of pollutant emissions, using an MPO’s travel demand forecasting model and EPA’s latest MOBILE emissions model.  Being a marginal nonattainment area, no specific emissions budgets are set in the SIP.  Therefore, the “less than 1990” test is used in the conformity analysis.


Even though a marginal nonattainment area, the conformity analysis process in Capital District nonattainment area is not as basic as that of other nonattainment MPOs.   A small portion of northern Saratoga County (Town of Moreau) is covered by the Glens Falls MPO, not by CDTC.  Furthermore, the rural counties of Montgomery and Greene are outside of the CDTC transportation planning area; thus, CDTC’s travel forecasting model does not include these rural counties.[v]  The conformity submission to the Federal agencies thus must be a combined emissions analysis covering the entire nonattainment area.  This combined analysis is assembled in three parts:  (1) emissions from CDTC’s analysis of its TIP and Plan;  (2) emissions from any new non-exempt projects in the Town of Moreau;  (3) emissions calculations for new non-exempt projects in the two rural are done by the NYSDOT.  These three analyses are then combined and submitted as a joint analysis covering the entire nonattainment area.  The combined analysis has always passed “less that 1990” test.


In accordance with the CAAA90, conformity of transportation plans and programs in each non-attainment and maintenance area is a requisite determination made jointly by the FHWA and FTA, in consultation with EPA.  In October 2003, the NYSDOT submitted the conformity analysis for CDTC’s 2003-2008 TIP and for the New Visions 2021 Plan to FHWA and FTA on October 3, 2003.  After coordinating with EPA, FHWA and FTA issued a positive conformity determination on both the TIP and Plan on October 20, 2003. 


Agreements and Consultation

The transportation planning regulations require formal agreements within air quality nonattainment areas under certain circumstances, two of which apply to CDTC.   EPA’s conformity regulations, similarly, require a high degree of coordination among Federal, State and local entities and therefore have rules for the establishment of formal procedures of Interagency Consultation to ensure that all groups are involved.   In New York, the Interagency Consultation Group (ICG) is composed of five permanent members:  FHWA (New York Division), FTA (Region II), NYSDOT, NYSDEC and EPA (Region II), with representation from an MPO when the subject matter directly pertains to said MPO (e.g., a TIP or Plan air quality analysis).  The ICG reviews the air quality analyses on draft TIPs and draft Plans before finalization so as to identify problems before the MPO formally acts on the TIP and/or Plan.


The transportation regulations require two agreements that are applicable to the CDTC:

Agreement between MPO, State, State Air Quality Agency and others describing planning and Air Quality Conformity process in “Donut” areas.[vi]  The Capital District ozone nonattainment area includes the four central counties, plus two rural counties outside of CDTC’s planning area:  Greene and Montgomery Counties.  There is no formal agreement per se among the parties; however, informal procedures have been worked out.  The NYSDOT analyzes the air quality impacts of individual projects in the two rural counties, and the results are added to the CDTC’s analysis to determine an overall regional analysis.  The ICG considers this arrangement adequate.

Agreement between MPOs and the State when more than one MPO serves the nonattainment area.[vii]  As noted previously, the Adirondack/Glens Falls Transportation Council (A/GFTC) is the MPO for the Glens Falls, New York urbanized area; as such, it covers a small portion of northern Saratoga County (Town of Moreau), which is also in the Capital District ozone nonattainment area.  There is no formal agreement per se among the parties; however, informal procedures have been worked out on coordinating the 3-C process in each area, and how the air quality determinations for the nonattainment area are done.  The urgency of a formal agreement has not been great because of the small impact of the A/GFTC process on CDTC.  There has not been an air quality non-exempt project proposed in the Town of Moreau since the 1990 CAAA, and no such project is planned in the immediate future.  The ICG considers that this arrangement is working adequately.



New Air Quality Nonattainment Status

As required by the CAAA90, EPA reevaluates the NAAQS every five years and makes appropriate revisions to protect public health.  In July 18, 1997, EPA issued new air quality standards.  It is replacing the existing 1-hour ozone standard with an 8-hour standard for ozone; there will also be a new standard for PM2.5, although the Capital District is expected to be in attainment of this standard. 


On April 15, 2004, EPA designated the Capital District as “Basic” nonattainment area for the 8-hour ozone standard based on monitored data[viii].  As usual, EPA designated the entire MSA as nonattainment - this applies to the four urban counties plus the rural counties of Montgomery and Schoharie. [ix] 


            On June 15, 2004, EPA finalized their guidance for the 8-hour Ozone standard.   There will be a one-year grace period, during which the Capital District will still be subject to the 1-hour standard analysis.  At the end of the grace period (June 15, 2005), the 1-hour standard expires, leaving only the 8-hour standard in existence.



Actions to Improve Air Quality

Because the Capital District has been a marginal nonattainment area for the 1-hour ozone standard, there are no applicable transportation requirements or commitments in the SIP.  Therefore, no goals, directives or recommendations of the plan conflict with the SIP or interfere with the implementation of transportation control measures (TCM) therein.  However, CDTC does strive to include TCM-like activities in the region.  As noted in the its 2003 conformity analysis[x], CDTC point to the following actions to improve air quality:

·        Programs for improved public transit

·        TDM measures

·        Traffic flow improvements

·        Park and Ride lots

·        Commuter Register website for ridesharing matching

·        Guaranteed Ride Home program

·        Bicycle and Pedestrian considerations in New Visions

·        Congestion Management System


Regarding air quality considerations, CDTC’s process is very good.



Capital District Clean Communities

The Capital District is participating in the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) “Clean Cities” program, the Capital District Clean Communities being the medium of participation.  Clean Cities coalitions are voluntary, locally based government/industry partnerships to mobilize local stakeholders in an effort to expand the use of alternatives to gasoline and diesel fuel, accelerate the deployment of Alternative Fuel Vehicles (AFV), and build a local AFV refueling infrastructure.[xi]  Presently, six urban areas of New York State have joined the Clean Cities Program.[xii] 


CDTC (Deborah Stacey) has commendably assumed the lead role in this coordination effort here in the capital District, with $25,000 allotted in the 2004-05 UPWP.  The Capital District Clean Communities has sponsored alternative-fuel events and help their members to develop partnerships and identify funding opportunities.  The regular meetings provide a forum for stakeholders (e.g., CDTA, the Albany County Airport Authority, local governments, private sector representatives) to jointly explore new technologies. 


The DOE has recognized the Albany-Buffalo portion of the New York State Thruway (I-90) as a “Clean Corridor”, one of twelve such corridors in the Country.  Four Clean Cities coalitions (Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Albany) are along the corridor.  The coalitions, along with the assistance of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, NYSDOT, New York State Clean Fuel Vehicle Council, and the Thruway Authority, have developed a strategic plan to expand the accessibility and availability of alternative fuels along and near the New York State Thruway (I-90).  Future linkages might be made with eastern coalitions along I-90 such as Boston, and western coalitions such as Toronto and Cleveland.  Presently, the Clean Corridors concentrate on highway travel; eventually, it may be possible to include coordination with Amtrak (Empire Division) and the CSX Freight system, which runs parallel to the Thruway. 


   CDTC is congratulated for its decision to lead this effort in the Capital District.  It is the only MPO that has this role in New York.


[i] There are three monitoring sites within the Capital District: Loudonville Reservoir (Albany County), Skidmore College (Saratoga County), and Mont Pleasant High School (Schenectady County).

[ii]  23 CFR 450.308(a)


[iii]  An area is allowed three exceedances of the1-hour ozone standard over a three-year period.


[iv]  July 28, 1994 Federal Register


[v]  These counties, which are outside the metropolitan planning boundary and inside the nonattainment/maintenance area boundary, are referred to as "donut" areas.


[vi]   23 CFR  450.314(f)


[vii]   23 CFR  450.314(g)


[viii]  8-hr standard (0.08 ppm) –  find the 4th highest 8-hour value in the year.  Average for three years and see if you exceed the standard.


[ix]  Following the 2000 Census, the Office of Management and Budget revised the Albany-Schenectady-Troy MSA definition to be Albany, Montgomery, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady and Schoharie Counties. 


[x]  August 29, 2003 paper


[xi]  Clean Cities Game Plan 1998/99, U. S. Department of Energy.

[xii] Clean Communities of Western New York (Buffalo), Clean Communities of Central New York (Syracuse), Capital Region Clean Communities (Albany), Greater Long Island Clean Cities Coalition (Long Island), Genesee Region Clean Communities (Rochester) and New York City Clean Cities.