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Great Lakes Article:


New smog standards on horizon

By Tom Diemer
Plain Dealer
04/02/04


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 in December.

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."

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