EPA regulations to affect smog
By John Heilprin
April 15, 2004
WASHINGTON - After years of legal wrangling, the government
is poised to issue new rules on where and how to comply
with tougher air quality standards that will affect the
cleanup of smog in dozens of states.
Some 470 counties in 31 states could be targeted by the
Environmental Protection Agency regulations designed to
reduce unhealthy levels of ground-level ozone or smog.
The EPA is also proposing other rules to improve views
and air quality in national parks and wilderness areas.
Both announcements, scheduled Thursday, are the result
of court settlements with environmental groups.
"When we are finished, our entire nation will have
cleaner air," Mike Leavitt, head of the EPA, said
in a speech Wednesday.
EPA is requiring states to implement tougher ozone standards
that will result in more vehicle inspections and maintenance,
cleaner-burning gasoline, better transportation planning
and improvements at coal-burning power plants and other
The new ozone standards, crafted by the Bush EPA after
being initiated under the Clinton administration, are
intended to reduce smog from ozone produced by paint and
gasoline vapors combining at ground levels with nitrogen
oxides from fossil fuel burning. Heat and sunlight turn
it into smog.
Southern California, Great Lakes states and the Northeast
corridor from Washington, D.C., to New York City, western
Pennsylvania and parts of Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia
are expected to be most out of compliance with the 1997
standards, according to recent EPA air quality monitoring
Two years ago, about 10 million people in dozens of metropolitan
areas began trying voluntarily to meet the standards,
buying more time to comply in the long run, Leavitt said.
"Let me also be clear that clean air progress requires
more than voluntary agreements," said Leavitt, a
former Utah governor. "A strong national approach
is needed because many states believe they could take
all the cars off their roads, clean up the power plants
and close factories in their state, and they will still
fail to reach attainment."
Leavitt said roughly 2,700 counties do meet the standards,
as do 19 states: Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho,
Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada,
North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont,
Washington and Wyoming.
The standards allow less ozone in the air, from 120 parts
per billion down to 85, and require more hours of sampling.
They were delayed from taking effect for four years because
of failed court challenges by the trucking, manufacturing
and business groups as well as by the states of Michigan,
Ohio and West Virginia.
The Supreme Court upheld the standards in February 2001.
Environmental and public health groups such as the American
Lung Association and Environmental Defense sued to force
government into action.
Leavitt was under a court-ordered deadline Thursday to
release the list of non-complying counties and the categories
they fall in, which determine the corrective measures
and time frames to accomplish cleanups.
EPA also is proposing that states impose new limits on
air pollution from power plants and other sources of emissions,
which drift hundreds of miles and cause haze and visibility
problems in remote areas.
That proposal results from a lawsuit by Environmental
Defense to enforce Clean Air Act goals for improving visibility
in 155 national parks and wilderness areas, and in the
Roosevelt Campobello International Park near Lubec, Maine,
overseen by a U.S.-Canada commission.
Some of the parks affected include Acadia in Maine, Glacier
in Montana, Grand Canyon in Arizona, Great Smoky Mountains
in Tennessee and North Carolina, Shenandoah in Virginia,
Yellowstone in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, and Sequoia
and Yosemite in California.
"There's an urgent need for EPA to clean up the
pollution from power plant smokestacks that cast a veil
of haze over our national parks and harms public health,"
said Vickie Patton, a senior attorney in Boulder, Colo.,
for the environmental group.