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Summit gathers local, regional officials

A large-scale gathering of parties concerned with Lakeview’s air quality convened on Thursday, April 25, for a roundtable summit.
Representatives in attendance included both town and county officials, representatives from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality as well as the Seattle, Wash., office of the Environmental Protection Agency, Lakeview BLM, South Central Oregon Economic Development District and numerous representatives of the general public.
State DEQ Air Quality Program Mgr. Andy Ginsburg started the meeting with an initial overview on the background on the issue. Ginsburg’s overview included the roots behind the EPA’s Clean Air Act, which establishes standards for air quality-related issues.
Whereas PM 10, a coarser form of particulate matter emissions, served as the primary point of concern prior to 2006, the focus has since turned to PM 2.5, or fine particulate matter for much more grave health-related concerns.
“The smaller the particle, the deeper it can get into our lungs,” he said.
Ginsburg noted that, at the time, a lack of sufficient collected data was available to determine if Lakeview was exceeding the standard. Since that time, data suggests Lakeview’s non-compliance though it has not formally been deemed an area of non-compliance, Ginsburg said.
“You’re in kind of a unique situation where you’re exceeding the standard, but you’re not a non-attainment area,” he said.
Kate Kelly, the EPA Airways director with the agency’s Seattle, Wash., office, noted that the annual standard was lowered in 2012, with the daily standard remaining the same for PM 2.5 emissions. It didn’t impact Lakeview, given the latter serving as the primary struggle for the community.
“We very firmly (believe) the best solutions come from the communities to their problems,” she said. “It is very clear doing a more voluntary program is very much more preferable than (mandated programs).”
Rachel Sakata, a DEQ air quality planner with the agency’s Portland office, commented on Lakeview’s recent acceptance into the PM Advance program. This program provides a five-year window for the Town to develop strategies to combat its air quality issues, thereby deferring formal non-attainment status.
“It’s a very flexible program,” she said. “You can be as flexible as you want, or as stringent as you want.”
Kelly noted this program serves as a partnership opportunity that would otherwise not be possible if the Town were to simply lapse into formal non-attainment.
She also noted the federal process involved with setting and changing standards is not arbitrary, but rather a lengthy and complex one in which public involvement is vast.
“People should not have to choose between being warm and being healthy,” Kelly said.
Other discussion included exceptional events outside the community’s control, such as climatic conditions that include air inversions that often stagnates Lakeview’s air quality for days and weeks at a time during winter.

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