Board hears report on growing concerns over ozone
levels in the Treasure Valley
Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Director Toni Hardesty presented a report on potential fallout from increasing ozone levels when she spoke via teleconference to the Idaho Transportation Board, meeting last week (Sept. 17) in Pocatello.
Her report focused on the Treasure Valley’s three-year ozone average that may force the region into non-attainment status under federal Environmental Protection Agency guidelines.
Ozone is caused by a chemical reaction between nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the presence of sunlight and heat. Motor vehicles and fuel sources account for the largest man-made portion of VOC emissions in the Treasure Valley – 20 percent, Hardesty said. Some of the other sources include households, – 11 percent; wood-burning stoves and fireplaces, 6 percent, and open burning, 5 percent. Emissions from gasoline delivery to underground storage tanks represent 3 percent of the area’s total VOC emission inventory.
Although the Treasure Valley’s three-year ozone average exceeds the national standard, Director Hardesty said there is an opportunity to address the ozone problem locally and prevent non-attainment designation. The 2006 data, the highest ozone level recorded in the three-year period, would not be considered in the 2007-2009 data.
A non-attainment designation would have negative, and potentially long-term, economic consequences for the state and businesses that operate or would like to locate in the greater Boise area. Hardesty outlined several control measures that could be implemented to avoid non-attainment designation.
ITD staff members followed Hardesty’s presentation with a request to fund a Stage 1 Vapor Recovery project. The proposal includes $500,000 from the federal Congestion Mitigation/Air Quality (CMAQ) Program and $500,000 from local businesses. The project would retrofit area gasoline storage tanks with vapor recovery technology to reduce emissions of VOC.
The Stage 1 Vapor Recovery project was submitted to and recommended by the CMAQ Technical Review Committee in April; however, due to funding constraints, the board opted to suspend funding for the CMAQ program.
Last week, the board approved up to $500,000 in federal funds for the project, although it asked the ITD staff to seek legislative reimbursement for a portion or all of these funds. Because of the potential serious economic consequences of a non-attainment designation and because transportation is not the sole source of the VOC, some board members contend that other state funding sources should be used, such as from DEQ or the Department of Commerce.
Federal and state funding outlook
Staff members provided an overview of the national and state economy and their impact on the transportation industry. With a recession anticipated in Idaho in late 2008 to mid-2009, revenue to the Highway Distribution Account is projected to decline in FY09 and then gradually increase annually.
The balance in the national Highway Trust Fund also is declining, according to the staff report. President Bush recently signed a bill to transfer $8 billion to the fund. Although that was a crucial measure, a long-term solution still is needed.
Three different transportation funding analyses for Idaho were presented. The staff is planning for the most optimistic estimate, because the department needs to be prepared and have projects ready to go if the economy improves and funding materializes.
ITD staff members asked the board for direction in addressing the projected $47 million shortfall in FY10.