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EPA and State Agencies Agree on Commitments and Best Practices for Addressing State Implementation Plan Backlog


By Jennifer K. Thompson, Attorney, Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP 

Over the last year the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, the Environmental Council of the States, and the EPA State Implementation Plan Reform Workgroup (SRWG) have analyzed and discussed how to address EPA’s State Implementation Plan (SIP) backlog and how to keep it from recurring. The SRWG studied the entire process of submitting and reviewing SIPs, as well as the SIP tracking system which provided both EPA and the state air agencies with a better understanding of the issues and challenges each face. As a result, the SRWG has developed commitments and best practices to eliminate the current SIP backlog and to prevent the backlog from recurring. 

Pursuant to the Clean Air Act, EPA is required to act on SIP submittals within 12 months of a completeness determination or its equivalent. A backlog is created when SIPs are submitted by states and are found to be complete, or are deemed complete, for more than 12 months, but are not acted on by EPA. To clear the SIP backlog and process new SIP submittals in a timely manner, the SRWG recommends the following commitments and best practices.


  1. Clear the existing SIP backlog (as of Oct. 1, 2013), by the end of 2017, while managing the review of all other SIPs consistent with Clean Air Act deadlines.

  2. EPA Regions to adopt four-year management plans to accomplish the commitments listed in paragraph one above. Each plan shall include processes for:

    a. Collaboratively prioritizing each SIP and/or type of SIP with the state air agency along with a commitment to process the higher-priority SIPs first;
    b. Consistent (scheduled conference calls), collaborative communication between the Region and the states;
    c. Routine reports on the status of the SIP; and
    d. Cooperative, early identification of deficiencies in the state’s SIP submittals.

  3. Identify and address impediments to timely processing of SIPs uniformly across all regions, utilizing EPA’s National SIP Issues Management Dashboard, or other such tools.

  4. Detailed tracking the progress of SIPs.

  5. Ensure SIP consistency and elevation processes are transparent and inclusive with the states.

  6. The SRWG will reconvene annually to review EPA’s progress in clearing the SIP backlog.

Best Practices

  1. Open communication to prioritize EPA actions on SIPs.

  2. Understanding of states’ administrative procedures for adoption of rules and regulations for submission of SIPs to ensure timely comment and input by EPA.

  3. Sharing of early drafts (prior to public comment period) of SIPs with ample time for review to identify approvability, key policy and legal concerns early in the process.

  4. Openly discuss substantive approvability issues and notice of intended action by EPA as early in the SIP review process as possible.

  5. Establish process to elevate issues that cannot be resolved at staff levels.

  6. Early collaboration on multi-state and multi-region areas.

  7. Communicate regularly on status of SIPs. 

EPA supports the commitments and best practices developed by the SRWG as a way to keep the SIP backlog low. IDEM staff have advised that EPA Region 5 has already agreed to prioritize National Ambient Air Quality Redesignations, and IDEM even has a commitment from Region V to eliminate the backlog well before the 2017 deadline.

A copy of the SRWG Commitments and Best Practices for Addressing the SIP Backlog as well as other information can be found at:

Update on Changes to KDAQ Regulations

No new KDAQ regulations or amendments to existing KDAQ regulations have been proposed or approved since the last issue of the Air Quality Letter.

Update on Changes to LMAPCD Regulations

There have been no proposed revisions or amendments to LMAPCD regulations since the last issue of the Air Quality Letter.

To view a complete PDF of the First Quarter 2014 Air Quality Letter, click here


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