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2011-01-13

EPA delays decision on ozone pollution threshold

Special to the Courier

According to a press release from the Alamo Area Council of Governments, the Alamo region remains in attainment of the federal air quality standard for ozone - the primary component of smog - as United States Environments Protection Agency delays rolling out a new, tougher ozone standard.
In January 2010, the EPA announced that, once further consideration of a recommendation from an independent committee of scientific experts was complete, it would set a new threshold for the amount of allowable ground-level ozone pollution.
The level of the new standard advised by the experts was within a range of 60 to 70 parts per billion (ppb), while the current standard, set by the previous administration during 2008, is at 75 ppb. The EPA indicated that it planned to make a decision by August 2010, regarding exactly where the threshold would be set within that range.
The EPA’s decision has been postponed, and in regulatory action posted on Dec. 8, the agency announced that “Administrator Jack­son will ask the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) for further interpretation of the epidemiological and clinical studies they used to make their recommendation.”
As a consequence, the EPA will delay finalization of the new ozone pollution standard until agency scientists have had adequate time to review the additional input of CASAC, its independent committee of scientific experts, which the EPA says will be by the end of July 2011.
Last January, the EPA recognized that areas of the country in violation of the 2008 ozone standard would be redesignated by a deadline of March 12, 2011 unless a revision were finalized earlier. Under Clean Air Act requirements, designations under a new standard must be published within three years of the date of promulgation of the new standard. The EPA’s Dec. 8 announcement means that, by March 2011, the 2008 federal ozone standard will still be in effect. Hence designations under the 2008 standard will be required. The San Antonio Metropolitan Area is currently in attainment of the 2008 standard, at 75 ppb for the 2008 to 2010 period. However, the area’s status as the largest metropolitan area to remain in attainment of the EPA’s Clean Air Standards remains precarious.
For more information, contact Peter Bella at 210- 362-5249 or pbella@aacog.com.