Study Shows OKC Area in Danger of Violating EPA Ozone Standards Which Could Cost the Region $9.6 – $15.2 billion Over a 20-30 Year Period

During the last five years as the Oklahoma City area achieved local and national success in economic development and growth, the region has crept closer to violation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Ozone Standard.

With the release of the Cost of Nonattainment (CNA) Study for the Oklahoma City Area, the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments (ACOG) reports that a violation of federal air quality standards and ensuing federal regulatory requirements could cost the OKC Metro Area as much as $9.6 – $15.2 billion over a 20–30-year period.

As the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for Central Oklahoma, ACOG embarked on this study to help its local stakeholders better understand the multiple transportation and economic risks along with the corresponding potential benefits of taking proactive steps or actions.

“We are one of the largest metropolitan areas still meeting EPA air quality standards,” Mark W. Sweeney, AICP, ACOG Executive Director said. “With this study, our goal has been to utilize our resources as a regional planning organization to be innovative, forward-thinking and to prepare the area for all possible scenarios.”

In Texas, the San Antonio and El Paso regions have recently received a nonattainment designation from the EPA.

The Clean Air Act (CAA) requires that EPA designate areas as nonattainment if they are violating the Ozone Standard. In recent years, the eight-county Oklahoma City-Shawnee Combined Statistical Area (CSA) Ozone concentrations have reached maximum allowable levels.

The ACOG study, only the third of its kind in the country, was financed through grants from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) with financial contributions provided by the following regional stakeholders: City of Oklahoma City, Environmental Federation of Oklahoma, Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, Oklahoma Department of Commerce, Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT), Oklahoma Gas & Electric Company, ONE Gas, Sierra Club – Oklahoma Chapter, and Tinker Air Force Base.

The CNA Study is divided into three sections:

  1. Economic Costs to the Oklahoma City Area
  2. Transportation Conformity (Planning) Costs
  3. Potential Off-Setting Benefits Associated with Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Funding

Section One considers the likely economic costs of a nonattainment status over a 28-year period: from 2022 to 2050 and how even a brief period of nonattainment can carry a significant opportunity cost for the region for a long period of time.

“The Oklahoma Department of Commerce supports all efforts to ensure Oklahoma’s communities are business ready. We appreciate the efforts of ACOG and our other partners to examine how air quality can be a critical factor in our ability to recruit business partners to our state,” Brent Kisling, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Department of Commerce and CNA Study Regional Partner said.

Section Two of the CNA Study presents the findings of the potential impacts of a nonattainment designation on transportation planning because of conformity requirements and sanction provisions of the CAA.

Transportation conformity, which is a way to ensure that state and regional plans with federal funding meeting air quality goals, will have a significant impact on the transportation planning process and would hinder the ability of ACOG and ODOT to conduct efficient transportation planning for the whole region.

This study estimated that a nonattainment designation for the EPA’s proposed Ozone NAAQS could potentially cost the ACOG MPO and ODOT in the range of $135 million to $145 million between 2023 and 2050 for routine conformity analysis and project delays associated with it.

“Keeping Central Oklahoma in attainment is key for ODOT to deliver needed transportation projects and is absolutely critical to the success of current and future mobility improvements in the Oklahoma City Metro Area,” Secretary of Transportation and Oklahoma Department of Transportation Executive Director Tim Gatz said. “ODOT was very proud to partner with ACOG to produce this study, which will help guide our transportation planning and air quality goals as we continue to work with local government stakeholders.”

Section Three of the study focuses on Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) CMAQ funding. Currently, ODOT retains full flexibility in distributing their statewide CMAQ funding ($12.8 million for FY 2022). A nonattainment designation for Central Oklahoma will bring a larger portion of CMAQ funding to the ACOG MPO from ODOT. The increase in funds provides an opportunity to advance certain projects or programs of projects, but it also brings challenges associated with meeting the greater local match requirement and ensuring that the region has the projects to support the use of the additional funds.

“It is imperative that the Oklahoma City Metro Area maintain its attainment status in order to protect public health and avoid the economic costs associated with nonattainment,” said the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, Air Quality Director Kendal Stegmann. “The study commissioned by ACOG helps local stakeholders better understand the potential impacts of ozone nonattainment and maintaining the Ozone Standard helps ensure a healthy and prosperous future for local citizens.”

The $9.5-$15.2 billion in economic costs identified in this study reinforce the urgent need for the Oklahoma City Area to remain in attainment of the Ozone standard. The financial burdens to the transportation system are also identified – saddling businesses, government agencies, and individuals with increased construction costs, delayed road projects, and new regulatory requirements.

“Clean air is essential to the quality of life for all Central Oklahomans, and the region’s air quality attainment status is an economic strength that supports prosperity, opportunity, and economic development advantages over other regions,” Sweeney said.

Staff Contacts

Rachel Meinke

Public Information Director

Eric Pollard

Air Quality & Clean Cities Manager

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