WATCH: EPA Administrator Reaffirms Commitments to Kelly to Address Air Quality Challenges in Phoenix Metro Area

This week, during a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing, Arizona Senator Mark Kelly secured commitments from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to make progress on two innovative proposals—called Rule 204 and Rule 205—which were developed by Maricopa County to generate emission reduction credit in the Phoenix metro area.  

If adopted, both rules would provide a pathway for advanced manufacturing facilities for industries of the future—like microchips and battery manufacturing—to expand in the Phoenix area in compliance with the Clean Air Act, while also reducing overall regional air emissions. Specifically, these rules would allow manufacturers to offset new emissions by helping to electrify mobile sources of emissions like cars, trucks, construction equipment, and other vehicles.  

Both rules have been awaiting EPA’s review for years without action. Earlier this year, Kelly secured commitments from EPA Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation Joe Goffman to make progress on Rules 204 and 205when he met with Arizona stakeholders in March.   

This week, Kelly asked EPA Administrator Michael Regan for updates on these promises made by EPA during those meetings. At Kelly’s urging, Regan committed that the first rule, Rule 205, would be conditionally approved this summer, and that EPA would provide Maricopa County with a path forward on Rule 204 by the end of the year.  

“Everyone in Arizona is united around finding a solution that allows these projects to move forward while continuing to reduce emissions in the region—that includes elected officials at the state, county, and local level, and our business community,” Kelly said. 

Sen. Kelly delivers remarks during a Senate Environment & Public Works Committee hearing

Click here to download video of Kelly’s remarks. See the transcript below:  

Sen. Kelly: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Administrator Reagan, good to see you again. I want to start by talking about air quality. Right now, in the Phoenix metro area, we are seeing Ozone concentration increase which has placed the region into non-attainment. This is happening as the Phoenix area is becoming one of the largest manufacturing hubs in the country of microchips, battery technology, and electric vehicles. These projects not only create great paying jobs, but they are the type of investments we need to combat climate change and ultimately reduce emissions across the country. Right now, the biggest impediment to getting some of these projects off the ground is air-quality nonattainment.  

Everyone in Arizona is united around finding a solution that allows these projects to move forward while continuing to reduce emissions in the region. That includes elected officials at the state county, local level and our business community. That’s why before I supported his confirmation, I asked Joe Goffman, your assistant administrator for air and radiation, to commit to coming out to Arizona to meet with all of our stakeholders. And I appreciate that he agreed to make the trip.   

When he was in Arizona in March, administrator Goffman heard about two innovative proposals developed by Maricopa County to generate emission reductions called Rule 204 and 205. Broadly speaking, these rules would allow manufacturers to offset new emissions by helping to electrify mobile sources of emissions like cars, trucks, construction equipment, and other vehicles. Before his confirmation and while he was in Arizona, administrator Goffman provided me and my staff with some commitments to making progress on Rules 204 and 205. But it’s been a few months since his visit, so I want to ask you for an update.  

First of all, Rule 205, after administrator Goffman visited Arizona, EPA region 9 provided Maricopa County with a commitment to conditionally approve Rule 205 if the County committed to make some minor technical changes. And lastly, Maricopa County sent a letter to Region 9 confirming that they would make all of the required technical changes. That means the next step is for the EPA to conditionally approve Rule 205. So, administrator Reagan, can you confirm that EPA Region 9 will now move forward with providing conditional approval for Rule 205?   

Administrator Regan: I can, yes.   

Sen. Kelly: And when do you expect Region 9 would be able to grant this conditional approval?  

Administrator Regan: We anticipate being able to do that this summer.  

Sen. Kelly: Can you confirm that EPA will work closely with Maricopa County to ensure that final approval is granted to Rule 205 within the next year?   

Administrator Regan: Yes.  

Sen. Kelly: Thank you. On Rule 204, which I’ll note was submitted by Maricopa County to Region 9 back in 2019. To date, no action has been taken by Region 9 to approve the rule or even provide feedback. But during their visit, assistant administrator Goffman and regional administrator Guzman committed that after we got conditional approval on 205, we then turned our attention to 204. So, Administrator Reagan, will you commit that EPA will by the end of this year work with Maricopa County to decide whether Rule 204 can be approved? If not, identify what changes are needed to make the rule approvable?  

Administrator Regan: We can absolutely do that. We will be shifting all of our resources from 205 to 204 to get that done in a timely fashion.   

Sen. Kelly: Thank you. As you may know, the EPA issued a finding of the failure to submit a state implementation plan or SIP for ozone nonattainment last year. We now face a deadline to submit our SIP in August of 2024 as the deadline. And Arizona intends to meet this deadline. However, because of how long it’s taken for Rule 205 to be approved, we may have to submit our SIP very close to the deadline. I understand it could take some time between when a SIP is submitted to Region 9 and when it is considered received by EPA. We don’t want Arizona to be penalized for passing the August deadline because of an EPA paperwork processing delay. So, administrator Reagan, will you commit that as soon as the state of Arizona submits its SIP, Region 9 and EPA headquarters will move as quickly as possible to confirm it has been received so that sanctions are not imposed on Arizona?   

Administrator Regan: Yes, I can. As a matter of fact, our staff is already talking with the state. We anticipate getting that late June or early July, so we believe we’re on track.   

Sen. Kelly: Alright, thank you. Mr. Chairman, if I could, could I have one more minute? I also want to ask about some exceptional events rules. I understand that the EPA established a new air quality standard for particulate matter earlier this year. You committed to putting out updated tools to help air-quality managers submit exceptional event demonstrations for days where particulate matter emissions exceeded legal limits due to wildfire, but I am concerned the same level of attention has not been applied to ozone pollution caused by wildfires. Between 2015 and 2019, the Maricopa Association of Governments submitted documentation for 33 days where ozone emissions exceeded legal limits because of wildfire smoke. But today Region 9 has only evaluated the documentation for 19 of these days and they’ve only granted an exemption for three days. The failure to quickly review or review at all exceptional event demonstrations submitted by air-quality managers makes it difficult for Phoenix, the region, to develop a plan to get into attainment. Administrator Regan, can you explain how the new exceptional event tools for wildfires–and I’m going to ask this for the record because I’m over my time–but can you submit for the record how the new tools which EPA committed to release as part of the particulate matter rulemaking will assist air agencies in easily submitting exceptional event demonstrations? If you could submit that for the record.

Thank you.