EPA Maintains NSR Requirements Used To Meet 8-Hour Standard For Ground-Level Ozone

EPA has denied a petition filed by public health and conservation groups to reconsider New Source Review (NSR) requirements that will be used by states and communities across the country to meet the new 8-hour standard for ground-level ozone.

EPA officials stated on July 1 that the final rule to implement Phase 1 of the 8-Hour National Ambient Air Quality Ozone Standard would ensure a smooth transition from the 1-hour standard to the more protective standard.

To ensure a smooth transition to the new 8-hour ozone standard, the NSR requirements will continue to apply to large sources of ozone-forming air pollutants in nonattainment areas for the 8-hour ozone standard, not the recently revoked 1-hour standard, officials said. EPA determined that the states should be allowed to remove 1-hour ozone New Source Review programs from their state implementation plans and replace them with a New Source Review program that is applicable to the 8-hour standard.

By ensuring that new, rebuilt, or modified plants and facilities do not contribute to air quality problems, the NSR program is one tool that nonattainment areas use to meet and maintain EPA's air quality standards, the agency stated.

The petitioning groups argue, however, that although the new standard is supposed to be stronger than the prior standard, EPA's rule actually lets states relax important pollution limits that applied under the old standard. In some cities, the rule could allow pollution increases of hundreds or even thousands of tons over levels previously permitted, they stated.

"This EPA action is a field day for new polluters," said Earthjustice attorney David Baron. "They're allowing more pollution in cities where the air is already unhealthy to breathe. That's grossly irresponsible, and in our view illegal."

According to Earthjustice, cities facing the potential for increased pollution under EPA's action include Chicago; Houston; Milwaukee; New York; Atlanta; Baltimore; Baton Rouge, La.; Philadelphia; Sacramento, Calif.; Washington, D.C.; Beaumont-Port Arthur, Texas; Boston; Dallas; Providence, R.I.; and San Joaquin Valley, Calif.

For more information, go to http://www.epa.gov/nsr.

This article originally appeared in the 07/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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