Clean Air Act State Implementation Plans, Explained

Posted on 5/7/2018 by Anthony Cardno

air-pollution.jpgOn any given day, you are likely to see EPA approve and promulgate Clean Air Act State Implementation Plans (SIPs) in the Federal Register.

Section 109 of the Clean Air Act required the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish both primary and secondary National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for the group of pollutants called “the criteria pollutants.” These pollutants, taken alphabetically are carbon monoxide; lead; nitrogen dioxide; ground-level ozone (and its precursors like volatile organic compounds, or VOCs); particulate matter (at two different sizes, “fine particulates” and “coarse particulates”); and sulfur dioxide.

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State-level Clean Air Act Responsibilities

It is the responsibility of each state to attain the NAAQS. Each state is divided by the EPA into Air Quality Control Regions (AQCR). For each AQCR, the state must determine whether or not the region has attained the NAAQS for each criteria pollutant. The physical boundaries for each AQCR, as well as their current designations (attainment or non-attainment) for each of the criteria pollutants, can be found at 40 CFR 81 or by consulting your State agency.

The state must develop and submit to EPA a State Implementation Plan (SIP) that describes how acceptable air quality will be maintained (where a region attains the NAAQS) and how air quality will be improved (where a region has not yet attained the NAAQS).

What’s in A Clean Air Act State Implementation Plan (SIP)?

Each SIP must include, at a minimum:
  • Procedural requirements.
  • Control strategies that the state will implement.
  • How the state will prevent air pollution emergency episodes.
  • A process for reviewing new sources and modifications of existing sources to determine the effect of increased emissions on the region’s air quality as a whole (referred to as “new source review”).
  • Surveillance of ambient air quality.
  • Emissions reporting, recordkeeping, testing, and monitoring requirements for sources within the region.
  • Demonstration of adequate enforcement authority and resources.
  • Enforceable compliance schedules.

How Do States Control Air Pollution?

coal-fired-power-plant.jpgStates may utilize a number of mechanisms to control air pollution in a given region, as long as those mechanisms are described in the SIP and approved by EPA. Where EPA has identified a Reasonably Available Control Technology (RACT) as a way of controlling emissions, EPA issues to the states/tribes Control Technology Guidelines (CTGs) that describe the control measure and how to implement it. For instance, one Federally mandated RACT measure in SIPs is a motor vehicle inspection and maintenance program for vehicle exhaust emissions.

If a state fails to submit an implementation plan, or if the plan fails to be approved, EPA is required to develop a Federal Implementation Plan (FIP) to help the state attain or maintain the NAAQS. Today, FIPs cover sections of Arkansas, Hawaii, Louisiana, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Wyoming, and the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation and the Navajo Generating Station. (

Tribal Implementation Plans for Native American Territory

Tribes are not required to develop Tribal Implementation Plans (TIP), but many do. If a tribe decides not to create a TIP, then the EPA will create a FIP to protect air quality, if warranted.

The process for tribes to develop a TIP can be found here.

See EPA’s progress on State plans.
EPA map of State, Tribal, and Federal Implementation plans

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Tags: Act, Air, Clean, environmental compliance, NAAQS, state rules

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