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Air Quality

Ozone Figures

Last updated: 05/2017

Related Figures

Percent Change in the Highest Values (99ᵗʰ percentile) of 1-hour Ozone Concentrations during the Ozone Season, 2000–2002 versus 2013-2015
Shifts in 8-hour Seasonal Rural Ozone Concentrations in the CSAPR NOₓ Ozone Season Region, 1990–2015
Seasonal Average of 8-Hour Ozone Concentrations in CSAPR States, Unadjusted and Adjusted for Weather
Changes in 1997 Ozone NAAQS Nonattainment Areas in the CSAPR Region, 2001–2003 (Original Designations) versus 2013-2015
Changes in 2008 Ozone NAAQS Nonattainment Areas, 2008–2010 (Original Designations) versus 2013-2015

Key Points

Changes in 1-Hour Ozone during Ozone Season

  • An overall regional reduction in ozone levels was observed between 2000–2002 and 2013–2015, with a 22 percent reduction in the highest (99th percentile) ozone concentrations in CSAPR states.
  • Results demonstrate how NOₓ emission reduction policies have affected 1–hour ozone concentrations in the eastern United States – the region that the policies were designed to target.

Trends in Rural 8-Hour Ozone

  • From 2013 to 2015, rural ozone concentrations averaged 65 ppb in CSAPR states, a decrease of 25 ppb (27 percent) from the 1990 to 2002 period.
  • The Autoregressive Integrated Moving Average (ARIMA) model shows how the reductions in rural ozone concentrations follow the implementation of the NBP in 2003 (two-year 14 ppb reduction from 2002) and the start of the CAIR NOₓ ozone season program in 2009 (two-year 7 ppb reduction from 2007).
  • Three of the four lowest ozone concentrations observed have been from 2013 through 2015. Ozone season NOₓ emissions fell steadily under CAIR and continued to drop after implementation of CSAPR in 2015. In addition, implementation of the mercury and air toxics standards (MATS), which began in 2015, achieves co-benefit reductions of NOₓ emissions.

Changes in 8-Hour Ozone Concentrations

  • The average reduction in ozone concentrations not adjusted for weather in the CSAPR NOₓ ozone season program region from 2000–2002 to 2013–2015 was about 10 ppb (18 percent).
  • The average reduction in the meteorologically-adjusted ozone concentrations in the CSAPR NOₓ ozone season program region from 2000–2002 to 2013–2015 was about 11 ppb (19 percent).

Changes in Ozone Nonattainment Areas

  • Ninety-two of the 113 areas originally designated as nonattainment for the 1997 8-hour ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) (0.08 ppm) are in the eastern United States and are home to about 122 million people.1 These nonattainment areas were designated in 2004 using air quality data from 2001 to 2003.2.
  • Based on data from 2013 to 2015, all 92 of the eastern ozone nonattainment areas now show concentrations below the level of the 1997 standard.
  • Twenty-two of the 46 areas originally designated as nonattainment for the 2008 8-hour ozone NAAQS (0.075 ppm) are in the eastern United States and are home to about 80 million people. These nonattainment areas were designated in 2012 using air quality data from 2008 to 2010 or 2009 to 2011.
  • Based on data from 2013-2015, 82 percent (18 areas) of the eastern ozone nonattainment areas now show concentrations below the level of the 2008 standard, while four areas continue to show concentrations above the 2008 standard. While four areas continue to show concentrations above the 2008 standard, three of those ares made progress toward meeting the standard in the 2013-2015 period. Given that the majority of ozone season NOₓ emission reductions in the power sector that occurred after 2003 are attributable to the NBP, CAIR, and CSAPR, it is reasonable to conclude that ozone season NOₓ emission reduction programs have significantly contributed to these improvements in ozone air quality.

Analysis and Background Information

Ozone pollution – also known as smog – forms when NOₓ and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) react in the presence of sunlight. Major sources of NOₓ and VOC emissions include electric power plants, motor vehicles, solvents, and industrial facilities. Meteorology plays a significant role in ozone formation and hot, sunny days are most favorable for ozone production. For ozone, EPA and states typically regulate NOₓ emissions during the summer when sunlight intensity and temperatures are highest.

Ozone Standards

In 1979, EPA established the NAAQS for 1-hour ozone at 0.12 parts per million (ppm, or 124 parts per billion). In 1997, a more stringent 8-hour ozone standard of 0.08 ppm (84 ppb) was finalized, revising the 1979 standard. CSAPR was designed to help downwind states in the eastern United States achieve the 1997 ozone NAAQS. Based on extensive scientific evidence about ozone’s effects on public health and welfare, EPA strengthened the 8-hour ozone standard to 0.075 ppm (75 ppb) in 2008, and further strengthened the 8-hour NAAQS for ground-level ozone to 0.070 ppm (70 ppb) in October 2015. EPA revoked the 1-hour ozone standard in 2005 and also recently revoked the 1997 8-hour ozone standard in April 2015.

Regional Trends in Ozone

EPA investigated trends in daily maximum 8-hour ozone concentrations measured at rural Clean Air Status and Trends Network (CASTNET) monitoring sites within the CSAPR NOₓ ozone season program region and in adjacent states. Rural ozone measurements are useful in assessing the impacts on air quality resulting from regional NOₓ emission reductions because they are typically less affected by local sources of NOₓ emissions (e.g., industrial and mobile) than urban measurements. Reductions in rural ozone concentrations are largely attributed to reductions in regional NOₓ emissions and transported ozone.

An Autoregressive Integrated Moving Average (ARIMA) model is an advanced statistical analysis tool used to determine the trend in regional ozone concentrations since implementation of various programs geared toward reducing ozone season NOₓ emissions. The average of the 99th percentile of the daily maximum 8-hour ozone concentrations measured at CASTNET sites (as described above) was modeled to show the shift in the highest daily ozone levels. The decrease in the modeled trend in 2011 is likely due to actions taken for CAIR compliance, although other factors contributing to the decline may include meteorology and changes in electricity demand.

Meteorologically–Adjusted Daily Maximum 8-Hour Ozone Concentrations

Meteorologically–adjusted ozone trends provide additional insight on the influence of CSAPR NOₓ ozone season program emission reductions on regional air quality. Daily maximum 8-hour ozone concentration data from EPA and daily meteorology data from the National Weather Service were retrieved for 78 urban areas and 39 rural CASTNET monitoring sites located in the CSAPR NOₓ ozone season program region. EPA uses these data in a statistical model to account for the influence of weather on seasonal average ozone concentrations at each monitoring site.3, 4

Changes in Ozone Nonattainment Areas

The majority of ozone season NOₓ emission reductions in the power sector that occurred after 2003 are attributable to the NBP, CAIR, and CSAPR. As power sector emissions are an important component of the NOₓ emission inventory, it is reasonable to conclude that the reduction in ozone season NOₓ emissions from these programs have significantly contributed to improvements in ozone air quality and attainment of the 1997 ozone health-based air quality standard. In fact, all areas originally designated as nonattainment for the 1997 ozone NAAQS are now meeting the standard.

Emission reductions under these power sector programs also have helped many areas in the eastern United States reach attainment for the 2008 ozone NAAQS. However, several areas continue to be out of compliance with the 2008 ozone NAAQS, and additional NOₓ ozone season emission reductions are needed to attain that standard as well as the strengthened ozone standard that was finalized in October 2015.

In order to help downwind states and communities meet and maintain the 2008 ozone standard, EPA finalized the CSAPR Update in September 2016 to address the transport of ozone pollution that crosses state lines in the eastern United States. Implementation began in May 2017 to further reduce ozone season NOₓ emissions from power plants in 22 states in the East.

More Information

References

  1. U.S. Census. (2010).
  2. 40 CFR Part 81. Designation of Areas for Air Quality Planning Purposes.
  3. Cox, W.M. & Chu, S.H. (1996). Assessment of interannual ozone variation in urban areas from a climatological perspective. Atmospheric Environment, 30 (16): 2615–2625.
  4. Camalier, L., Cox, W.M., & Dolwick, P. 2007. The effects of meteorology on ozone in urban areas and their use in assessing ozone trends. Atmospheric Environment, 41(33): 7127–7137.

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