Arizona Dust Storms and the Exceptional Events Rule

Issue Summary

View the Comment on this topic by Associate Editor Chris Boutillier.


Arizona has experienced an increase in seasonal dust storms in recent years. While many factors may contribute to the increase, the main issue is what effects are human caused and which are a natural cause of a warmer, drier Western United States. As a result, the Phoenix metro area has violated air quality standards set by The Environmental Protection Agency on multiple occasions. Now facing economic penalties, The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has worked fervently to classify those violations as “exceptional events”. The EPA created the exceptional event rule in order to allow cities to apply for waivers when they felt that environmental violations were caused by uncommon and unpreventable weather. The waiver insulates a city from violations that stem from the event, effectively offering a free pass from any EPA intervention. Arizona has been unsuccessful in applying for a waiver under the rule and now has policy makers seeking to create an easier route to evade EPA action. Lost among this financially driven initiative; air quality in Phoenix is at dangerous levels more often and presents a hazard to public health.


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