Hampton Roads meets the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone, set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to the brief by Tom Ballou of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VDEQ) at the Transportation Technical Advisory Committee’s April 1, 2015 meeting. The region has experienced a steady decline in the number of annual high-ozone days, with none being experienced in 2009, 2013, and 2014. Continued air quality improvements and emissions reductions are expected.
The region has taken several proactive measures to achieve cleaner air in accordance with the Ozone Action Plan approved by the EPA on April 23, 2013, such as retiring the coal-fired Chesapeake Energy Center as of December 31, 2014 and performing fuel conversions at other power facilities; implementing the Port of Virginia’s Green Operator, low sulfur fuels, and cargo handling programs; maintaining the 64 Express barge service between Hampton Roads and Richmond; constructing the Tide light rail; and promoting other renewable energy and energy efficiency programs.
According to EPA regulations, if an area is in non-attainment (does not meet the primary standard) for any of the NAAQS, the area’s Long-Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) and Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) must be tested for conformity with the State’s air quality plan. Because of Hampton Roads’ excellent air quality, VDOT and the HRTPO currently do not have to test for air quality conformity. This allows the 2040 LRTP to be completed this summer, significantly ahead of the 2016 deadline for updating the Plan.