Air Quality Standards and Area Designations
This page reviewed April 22, 2013
The Proposed 2012 Amendments to Area Designations for State Ambient Air Quality Standards became effective on April 1, 2013, after approval by the Office of Administrative Law. Additional information about these items can be found on the 2012 State Area Designations webpage.
The Air Resources Board (ARB or Board) has established State ambient air quality standards (State standards) to identify outdoor pollutant levels considered safe for the public. After State standards are established, State law requires ARB to designate each area as attainment, nonattainment, or unclassified for each State standard. The area designations, which are based on the most recent available data, indicate the healthfulness of air quality throughout the State. Further information can be found on the State Standard Area Designations page.In addition to State standards, the Federal Clean Air Act requires the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) to set national ambient air quality standards (federal standards or national standards). The federal area designation maps and tables reflect these federal standards. Further information about the federal standards and area designations can be found on the Federal Standard Area Designations page.
We maintain an e-mail mailing list for Area Designation activities. As announcements, reports, and other information are posted to this website, we will send e-mail notifications to everyone on the list. If you wish to receive these notices, you can subscribe by visiting the Area Designations List Serve web page and following the instructions there.
Health and Safety Code (H&SC) section 39607(e) requires the Board to establish and periodically review area designation criteria. H&SC section 39608 requires the Board to use these criteria to designate areas of California as attainment, nonattainment, or unclassified for the State standards and to review these area designations annually. The Board makes area designations for ten pollutants: ozone, suspended particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5), carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, sulfates, lead, hydrogen sulfide, and visibility reducing particles. The Board reviews the area designations each year and updates them as appropriate, based on the three most recent complete and validated calendar years of air quality data.
The U.S. EPA designates areas for each pollutant for which there is a national ambient air quality standard. ARB publishes maps of these area designations for informational purposes; however, the most current federal nonattainment area designations are found on the U.S. EPA website.
- Current Federal Area Designation Activities
- Federal Area Designation Maps
- Prior Federal Designation Activities (2008 ozone standard)
- Prior Federal Designation Activities (1997 ozone standard)
Exceptional events are
natural or unusual events that can overwhelm existing control
strategies for man-made pollution. If such an event occurs and U.S. EPA
agrees with the State's exceptional events determination, data that
caused an exceedance of a federal standard is excluded from
determining compliance with the standard. Examples of
exceptional events include, but are not limited
high winds and dust, volcanic activities, stratoshperic ozone intrusion, structural
fires, and fireworks.
Exceptional Events must meet the following five criteria before being approved by either the State or U.S. EPA:
- The event must meet the statutory definition of an exceptional event,
- There must be a clear causal relationship between the event and the measured exceedance,
- The concentration must be higher than normal background and historical fluctuations,
- It must be established that the measured concentration would not have exceeded the standard, "but-for" the event, and
- The State must satisfy public process and review procedures.
ARB provides an opportunity for public review and comment on the exceptional events documentation before submitting it to U.S. EPA for final approval.
- 2007 Southern California High Winds and Wildfires (PM2.5 and PM10) - COMMENT PERIOD CLOSED; Submitted to U.S. EPA on April 20, 2010.
- 2008 Northern California Wildfires (PM2.5 and PM10) - COMMENT PERIOD CLOSED; Submitted to U.S. EPA on August 28, 2009; U.S. EPA partial concurrence (March 22, 2010, and April 2, 2010).
- 2008 Northern California Wildfires (1-Hour Ozone -- Sacramento Metro Area) - COMMENT PERIOD CLOSED; Submitted to U.S. EPA on March 30, 2011; U.S. EPA concurrence April 13, 2011.