Air quality strategy for the Canada-US border

In January 2003, the Government of Canada, led by Environment Canada but in cooperation with other departments such as Health Canada, began working to develop a Border Air Quality Strategy with the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States to identify appropriate pilot projects to address transboundary air pollution of concern and to continue on the path to reduce transborder air pollution.

On June 23, 2003, three major pilot projects were announced by the U.S. Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Canadian Minister of the Environment. These projects have helped pave the way for further reductions in smog and improve health in both countries. The projects, as developed under the Border Air Quality Strategy, included:

Georgia Basin-Puget Sound International Airshed Strategy

The Georgia Basin-Puget Sound (GB-PS) International Airshed Strategy (IAS) is a multi-agency, cooperative, Canada and U.S. effort to address shared air quality management concerns in the transboundary GB-PS region. This region includes the west coast border cities of Vancouver and Victoria in Canada, and Seattle and Olympia in the U.S. Environment Canada and the U.S. EPA serve as co-chairs of the International Airshed Strategy Coordinating Committee (IAS-CC) responsible for this strategy, and meet annually.  

The GB-PS International Airshed Strategy aims to:

  • Reduce the impacts of air pollution to human health, ecosystems and visibility in the GB-PS airshed;
  • Prevent future deterioration and work towards continuous improvement of air quality in the GB-PS region; and,
  • Establish efficient instruments to address shared concerns regarding transboundary air pollution in the GB-PS region.

Improved air quality can have significant benefits from avoided hospitalizations and emergency room visits, avoided asthma episodes, and avoided missed work and school days, as well as increased agricultural productivity, reduced air pollution, and improved visibility.

Air Quality in the Transboundary Georgia Basin-Puget Sound Region

Air quality in this area typically meets both U.S. and Canadian standards due in part to past and present actions by government agencies (at all levels) to reduce air pollution sources.  Despite this progress, serious challenges remain to further reduce air quality effects on human health, ecosystems and visibility in this transboundary region.

Some of the main sources of air pollution in this region include: automotive emissions, non-road engine emissions (e.g. construction equipment, locomotives, etc.), wood burning emissions, residential home heating, marine vessel emissions, agricultural operations, and industrial and power plant emissions.

Great Lakes Basin Airshed Management Framework

The Great Lakes Basin Airshed Management Framework pilot project explored the feasibility of a coordinated airshed management approach in the Southwest Ontario/Southeast Michigan region. This pilot project aimed to investigate opportunities of greater cross border cooperation that could improve air quality in the area, with a focus on ground-level ozone and particulate matter (PM).

Emission Trading Feasibility Study

The Emission Trading Feasibility Study explored the feasibility of Canada- U.S. cross border cap and trade for emissions of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, the pollutants that contribute to smog and acid rain. The study was based on cap and trade programs of these pollutants in the United States and built on the commitment made under the Ozone Annex to the Canada-United States Air Quality Agreement, signed in 2000, to explore emissions trading.

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