The Environmental Protection Agency dishes out something called Section 105 grants, which, under the Clean Air Act, are supposed to be used by states to fight air pollution through regulation and monitoring. To qualify for federal aid, states have to do two things: put up at least 25 percent of the money for the program and spend at least as much on the program in any fiscal year as they did the year before.

In the state of Washington, things have gotten a little tight so the state cut $189,400 from its part of the air pollution program. No problem, said the regional EPA office in Seattle, you can still have your federal grant (of about $2 million). That's because the state was still contributing at least 25 percent to the program and had demonstrated that the budget cuts affected all state programs, not just clean air. Had clean air been singled out, the federal grant would have been endangered.

Washington is the second Pacific Northwest state to cut its clean air contribution; Oregon did the same thing, for the same reasons, last year. But Dr. Bernard Steigerwald, who is in charge of regional air pollution programs for EPA, said he has seen nothing to indicate that the Washington and Oregon actions are the beginning of a nationwide trend. The Reagan budget proposes to cut the Section 105 program from $87 million to $70 million next year, and if that happens, Steigerwald said, "We will have to discuss program modifications to do the high priority jobs."