Ted Simons: Tonight's Focus on Sustainability looks at an air quality conference cohosted by the Arizona Manufacturers' Council, and the Maricopa County Air Quality Department. The conference will detail the latest information regarding air quality standards crucial to manufacturing and clean air regulations. For more we welcome local environmental attorney Bert Acken. Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.
Bert Acken: Thank you for having me.
Ted Simons: Is that basically what we're talking about, this conference designed to address concerns from manufacturers and those who regulate manufacturers?
Bert Acken: It's really designed to be a broad-based conference. It's a conference that was done the last time we did it was four years ago. And we're really excited about doing it again. It's an opportunity to showcase the collaboration between the regulated community and local and state governments as we work together to develop ways to improve air quality in Maricopa County. Air quality is fundamental and important to us all. And this conference is not designed just for air quality experts. It's really designed for anyone who has an interest in the topic, and is a great opportunity for them to learn more about it.
Ted Simons: It sounds like environmental folks, residents, manufacturers, regulatory agencies will all be there to, what, share information, share the latest information?
Bert Acken: Absolutely. We're going to have presentations from all of the stakeholders you just mentioned. We'll be talking about exceptional events, which is -- That's the fancy word if you will for the dust storms that you see in Maricopa County. How do we deal with those? What are the next steps in trying to demonstrate attainment with our various air quality standards we have to meet, given that we have that in the Valley. Also, we're going to talk about some new rules that apply for start-up and shut-down, director Bill Wiley, who's the director of Maricopa County Air Quality Department, he's going to speak about the agency's latest and current priorities. And we will have a panel discussion of a variety of stakeholders, and again, it will be the community, the regulators, regulated industry, nonprofits, all to discuss these current issues and come up with some solutions.
Ted Simons: It sounds like you hadn't had a conference in four years. What happened, why did they stop?
Bert Acken: It's a lot of effort to put something like this on. You also saw -- There was a few things that happened over the past four years with the economy, and with that you have changes both at the regulators and you have changes in regulated industry. And that's why frankly this is a great time to restart it and -- Because there are so many new faces, and in that interim period there have been a lot of new requirements and new developments. And so that's why we're redoing it now. And hope to continue it moving forward as well.
Ted Simons: As far as the new requirements and the new regulations, give us a brief touching on what those are and what the concerns are with the manufacturing industry, how they are addressing those regulations.
Bert Acken: There's always a series of regulations you're dealing with. Currently most of what's being done is being driven at the federal level. We continue to have a regulatory moratorium at the state level, and then the local agency has to develop laws and the state does as well to implement the federal standards. So if EPA sets forth standards and says this is what must be done, then the local and state agencies have to develop regulations to implement them. I mentioned exceptional events, that is a hot topic right now. Another one that's statewide of significance is the regional Hayes rule. And that's something that will affect everyone in some manner, whether it's the cost of power, the cost of water.
Ted Simons: What is the current state of air quality in the valley, in the state?
Bert Acken: I've been doing this for over a decade, and air quality today is far better than it was when I first started. And I think it's important for folks to keep that in mind, that the air our kids are breathing today is so much cleaner than the air a generation ago. What happens is that the clean air act sets moving targets for what is the standard. So you have a standard for particulate matter, or ozone, and periodically those standards get updated as new scientific information is developed, and increases our understanding, then the standards become more string end. So you end up with a situation where you hear, we're still not meeting standards, we're still not meeting standards. But the fact of the matter is, if you look at the trend line of air quality, pollution, it's universally down in Maricopa County. It's just the function of we're chasing that moving target and we'll continue to have those challenges moving forward.
Ted Simons: And those exceptional events are always a concern in this part of the world. Tell us about the conference date and location.
Bert Acken: Thank you. It's November 6th from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., it's going to be at the Sheraton Tempe airport hotel. We're expecting a great turnout, and think it will be a good event.
Ted Simons: Bert, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it.
Bert Acken: Thank you very much.