The Clean Air Counts process began in March 1999. It started as a policy
development forum called the Regional Dialogue on Clean Air and Redevelopment
that was initiated to find a way to improve air quality and meet the standards
of the Clean Air Act without compromising the economic development of the
region. Area stakeholders
met for six months to develop emission reduction strategies that also support
Many ideas emerged from the policy development phased including changes
in transportation policies, operations and maintenance activities, and
legislative additions and revisionsaimed at addressing the unique challenges of different constituencies.
The multi-year implementation phase, which began in November 1999, is
now called Clean Air Counts. The five campaigns were developed and launched
in June 2000 as a pilot program to ensure that the Chicago area would
develop strategies for reducing the region’s ozone.
Clean Air Counts was initiated because repeated violations of the National
Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for ground level ozone (smog) have
resulted in the metropolitan Chicago region’s designation as a
severe nonattainment area. Only ten regions in the nation have earned
this dubious distinction. The ozone standard specifies the maximum allowable
level of one-hour ozone concentrations. The US EPA developed
a more stringent standard in 2004 – an eight hour standard – that
specifies the maximum allowable level of eight hour average ozone concentration.
Most of the campaign strategies are voluntary but include incentives
to encourage source reductions that traditionally have been difficult
to target such as non-regulated businesses, local government and individual
households. Ultimately, the solutions to our ozone problems lie in a
coordinated regional effort that takes advantage of this broad constituency.
Following with this idea, Clean Air Counts endeavors to improve air quality
in a manner that is not just evident, but quantifiable. By tracking the
success of individual participants in reducing emissions, Clean Air Counts
hopes to monitor the region’s progress towards achieving attainment
and thus build public and private sector participation.