Environ Int. 2016 Sep;94:473-481. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2016.06.005. Epub 2016 Jun 16.
In air quality management, reducing emissions from pollutant sources often forms the primary response to attaining air quality standards and guidelines. Despite the broad success of air quality management in the US, challenges remain. As examples: allocating emissions reductions among multiple sources is complex and can require many rounds of negotiation; health impacts associated with emissions, the ultimate driver for the standards, are not explicitly assessed; and long dispersion model run-times, which result from the increasing size and complexity of model inputs, limit the number of scenarios that can be evaluated, thus increasing the likelihood of missing an optimal strategy. A new modeling framework, called the “Framework for Rapid Emissions Scenario and Health impact ESTimation” (FRESH-EST), is presented to respond to these challenges. FRESH-EST estimates concentrations and health impacts of alternative emissions scenarios at the urban scale, providing efficient computations from emissions to health impacts at the Census block or other desired spatial scale. In addition, FRESH-EST can optimize emission reductions to meet specified environmental and health constraints, and a convenient user interface and graphical displays are provided to facilitate scenario evaluation. The new framework is demonstrated in an SO2 non-attainment area in southeast Michigan with two optimization strategies: the first minimizes emission reductions needed to achieve a target concentration; the second minimizes concentrations while holding constant the cumulative emissions across local sources (e.g., an emissions floor). The optimized strategies match outcomes in the proposed SO2 State Implementation Plan without the proposed stack parameter modifications or shutdowns. In addition, the lower health impacts estimated for these strategies suggest that FRESH-EST could be used to identify potentially more desirable pollution control alternatives in air quality management planning.