New smog standards on horizon
By Tom Diemer
Hundreds of communities in Ohio and other states - from
Maine to California - will face tough new standards for
cleaning up smog on April 15, the head of the Environmental
Protection Agency said Thursday.
But EPA Administrator Michael Leavitt conceded that full
compliance with the law is at least a decade away for
most, and even longer off for others. Thirty-three Ohio
counties, including all of Greater Cleveland, are likely
to be deemed in noncompliance with the smog standards.
Areas not meeting the new soot standards will be designated
Leavitt told the Senate's Environment and Public Works
subcommittee on clean air that existing and proposed EPA
rules should help bring well over half the 346 affected
counties into compliance with the regulation and also
with pending rules for small particle pollution by 2015.
The rest will have to turn to state and local financing
to install new pollution control equipment or face federal
sanctions or legal action if they remain in violation
of the tighter clean air law.
"This is no April Fools' Day joke," said Sen.
George Voinovich, an Ohio Republican, "these standards
are a wet blanket for our nation."
Voinovich, the subcommittee's chairman, said the EPA
estimated that achieving nationwide compliance with the
new rules will eventually cost $46 billion annually, with
the heaviest expense coming from the cleanup of small
particles, called soot.
But he said, "the battle over standards, folks,
is over. The question now is how do we go about implementing
them" in a way that protects public health while
minimizing harm to the economy. Passage of President Bush's
"Clear Skies Initiative" would help, Voinovich
said, by giving industries the flexibility to do the job.
Separate from the hearing, 45 senators urged Bush to
speed up the timetable for clamping down on mercury, previously
unregulated and now seen as a health threat when deposited
in rivers and lakes from airborne emissions.
Voinovich did not sign the bipartisan letter and warned
that an order to quickly clean up mercury would hurt Ohio
by making it too expensive for many businesses to operate.
His opponent for re-election, State Sen. Eric Fingerhut,
Democrat of Cleveland, urged Voinovich to join the letter
writers and accept the premise that cleaning up the air
and modernizing the manufacturing base can "go together."