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The Salmon City Council has agreed to join the Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) PM Advance Program. The decision came at the council’s August 3 meeting after hearing a presentation from DEQ officials.

Under terms of the agreement the city will first send a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Region 10 office in Seattle stating the city’s intention to join the program. A public meeting will be held and the city will appoint an Air Quality Advisory Steering Committee which will be charged with developing an air quality action plan and sending it to the EPA.

The officials stressed the proactive program is a strictly non-regulatory, volunteer effort designed to give communities a say in addressing air pollution problems.

Pascale Warren, DEQ Air Shed Management Analyst, narrated a slide presentation which included how this area’s topography contributes to capturing and trapping particulate laden air in the Salmon and Lemhi valleys.

Federal standards set by the EPA’s Clean Air Act allow the air to contain no more than 12 micrograms of measurable particulates per cubic meter of air. Warren said the city of Salmon has been consistently above those standards for the last six years. She said if the city would make a five year commitment of taking proactive steps to reduce PM 2.5 emissions by way of the PM Advance Program it would show the EPA a good faith effort and help avoid being listed as a nonattainment area. The PM 2.5 refers to the size of particulates in the air and is deemed unhealthy to breathe.

Warren said if a non-attainment designation were to occur, as it has in other areas of the state, the community would lose all flexibility in establishing control measures and the state would be forced to implement regulations which could lead to economic development losses as well as the loss of Federal Highway Administration and state transportation funding.

Boise based Mike Edwards, State Implementation Plan Coordinator, said once designated it can take up to 30 years of mandatory control measures to earn an attainment designation. As an example, he said the city of Sandpoint imposes and enforces burn bans on woodstove use during air stagnation days.

Warren said there is a two to three microgram difference between Salmon’s Air Quality and the federal standard so being able to reduce the numbers to an acceptable range is within the community’s reach. She also said if the program is not working the city can drop out at any time.

Approximately 93 percent of the land within Lemhi County boundaries is either state or federally owned. Warren said the yearly air particulate numbers do not include those gathered during wildland fire events. They do however, include ‘man caused’ particulate concentrations produced during Forest Service prescribed burns and those numbers are added to city air quality records. Data indicates the most substantial concentrations of particulates generated by residents come from wintertime wood stove use.

Although the council’s decision to proceed with participation in the PM Advance Program was unanimous Councilman Neal James pointed out flaws in calling the program “voluntary.” He said, “Basically what they told us is ‘One way or the other you’re going to do it.’ so we have no choice either way.” He said that once again the private citizen is being penalized and the federal government is getting off scot free because forest fires are excluded. James maintained the federal government should be held accountable for its share of the smoke. Warren commented that the city has the say in who it brings to the table by way of its steering committee and that agency personnel could be invited.

Salmon Valley Stewardship has volunteered to help with public educational materials distribution and other outreach mechanisms after the Air Quality Advisory/PM Advance Program Steering Committee is in place.

In addition to Warren and Edwards, those present at the meeting were; Rensay Owen in charge of DEQ Air Quality Monitoring Compliance, Regional Administrator for the DEQ’s Idaho Falls office Eric Neher, and Ryan Rossi the DEQ’s Air Quality Monitoring Coordinator for this region.

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