Wheeze a While Longer (cont.)

EPA yesterday announced a suite of inter-related actions known as the Clean Air Rules of 2004 which include national tools to help states and communities meet the national standard for ground-level ozone. The Clean Air Interstate Rule addresses power plant emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx), both of which blow across state lines and significantly impact pollution levels, including ozone pollution, in downwind cities.

EPA's Clean Air Nonroad Diesel Rule will regulate emissions from construction and other nonroad equipment powered by diesel engines. The rule also cuts sulfur levels in diesel fuel by more than 99 percent over current levels. Both actions will significantly help localities achieve cleaner air.

Thirty areas voluntarily entered into Early Action Compacts (EACs) in 2002, agreeing to have a plan in place to reduce air pollution about two years sooner than required by the Clean Air Act. These communities have had their nonattainment status deferred as a result. These areas must attain the new ozone standard no later than December 31, 2007. Areas must submit satisfactory progress reports to retain their EAC status. Three of the original 33 EAC areas did not meet their requirements (Memphis, Knoxville and Chattanooga, Tennessee) and are no longer included in the EAC program.

The 8-hour ozone standard, 0.08 parts per million (ppm), averaged over eight hours, replaces the 1-hour standard that has been in place since 1979. The 8-hour standard was issued in 1997 after a significant body of research showed that longer-term exposure to lower levels of ozone can also affect human health. Implementation of the new standard was held up by a lengthy legal battle.

Deadlines for meeting the 8-hour ozone standard range from 2007 to 2021, depending on the severity of an area's ozone problem. For example, areas with more significant ozone problems, such as Los Angeles, may have to apply more rigorous control measures, but will have a longer time to meet the ozone standards Ground-level ozone, a primary ingredient in smog, is formed when volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and NOx react chemically in the presence of sunlight. Car, trucks, power plants and industrial facilities are primary sources of these emissions. Ozone pollution is a concern during the summer months when the weather conditions needed to form ground-level ozone " lots of sun and hot temperatures " normally occur. Ozone is unhealthy to breathe, especially for people with respiratory diseases and for children and adults who are active outdoors.

Source: EPA press release, April 15, 2004

Last Editorial Review: 4/16/2004