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Friday, June 22, 2007 9:10:01 PM

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EPA wants to toughen ozone rules
Louisville among affected areas

By James Bruggers
The Courier-Journal

Just when Louisville thought it had met the federal clean-air standard for smog, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants to toughen the rules.

And the plan that EPA administrator Stephen Johnson proposed for ozone levels yesterday could keep the Louisville Metro area out of compliance until at least 2020.

Communities that fail to meet federal ozone standards can find it harder to attract new industries or expand existing ones, and they also must go through more rigorous transportation planning.

"I have concluded the current standard is insufficient to protect public health," Johnson said.

Based on the most recent EPA data, 24 counties in Kentucky and 26 in Indiana – and hundreds nationwide – might have to further cut ground-level ozone, a lung irritant that is especially troublesome to children, the elderly, and people with medical problems.

If the standard were in place today, the Louisville area would have reached or exceeded the proposed standard on as many as eight to 15 days already this year, according to an analysis by the Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control District.

That compares to four days so far under the existing standard. If adopted, the standard could provide relief to people like Marian Vasser, who is among thousands of people in the Louisville area who suffer from asthma and other lung ailments.

"There are times when I may be walking -- sometimes I have to wear a mask," said Vasser. "There are times when I go in the house, I don't go back outside. I have no energy. I lie down and go to sleep."

The EPA said there would be a 90-day public comment period.

Communities would have until between 2013 and 2030 to comply, depending on the severity of their ozone problems. The agency expects a final adoption of the new rules by March 12, 2008.

Environmentalists responded to Johnson's proposal yesterday by calling for an even tougher standard.

They accused the EPA of ignoring the most stringent recommendation of its scientific staff.

But some industries advocated no change, saying the proposal would hurt the economy.

"There is no need to change the current standard because it is working as intended and air quality is improving," said Charles T. Drevna, the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association executive vice president, in a statement.

Carmen Hickerson, a spokeswoman for Greater Louisville, Inc., the metro chamber of commerce, said that if the standard is made more stringent, Louisville businesses would work with the community to come into compliance, as they have done before.

Businesses already have spent millions of dollars on required or voluntary pollution controls, she said.

Proposal too lax?
Louisville's decades of work to cut smog have been successful.

The five-county metro area comprised of Jefferson, Bullitt and Oldham counties in Kentucky, and Clark and Floyd counties in Indiana is about to be declared in compliance with the existing standard, 84 parts per billion, measured over eight-hour periods.

Johnson is proposing taking the level as low as 70 parts per billion, or possibly setting it at 75 parts per billion.

But in a move that irritated environmentalists, he also invited comments from people or industries that don't believe the standard should be changed at all. They say that means Johnson is willing to put politics ahead of science – something the Clean Air Act does not allow when setting air quality standards.

During a conference call with reporters, Johnson said he made what he believed was the best decision based on available science.

But Carolyn Embry, who follows air quality issues for the American Lung Association of Kentucky, said scientific studies show harmful health effects from ozone even at below the levels Johnson proposed.

She said Johnson wasn't listening to his own scientists. In January, a group of EPA scientists recommended a standard as low as 60 parts per billion.

How to cut ozone
Ozone is formed when nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds mix with sunlight on hot, still days.

In Jefferson County alone, cars, trucks and other motor vehicles are responsible for about 31 percent of the nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds that produce ozone, while industrial plants are responsible for about 40 percent.

The rest includes trains, boats, airplanes, lawn-care equipment, and small businesses such as dry cleaners, auto body shops and printing shops.

Art Williams, director of the Louisville air district, and regulators for the states of Kentucky and Indiana, said national actions by the EPA to reduce pollution from power plants, diesel engines and even lawn-care equipment would help communities clean their air.

But data from the EPA suggests that Louisville area would have to take additional steps to comply with the proposed ozone standard.

Williams said the Louisville district anticipated a tougher standard, and is already developing new programs to reduce the pollutants that form ozone.

Possible measures could include limiting how long diesel-engine vehicles can idle, encouraging diesel engine upgrades, reducing emissions at Louisville International Airport, and improving mass transit.

Scott Deloney, a planning and policy section chief with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, said his agency will closely look at whether science supports the EPA's proposal. He said the state agency would submit its conclusion to the EPA during the comment period.

John Lyons, director of the Kentucky air agency, said states wouldn't have to make recommendations for two years, by which time air quality could have improved enough to exempt more counties from the proposed standard.

"We're not sure where this is going to fall out," Lyons said. For Casey Henry, a recent duPont Manual High School graduate and competitive runner who suffers from asthma, improvements couldn't come soon enough.

"This is one of the worst places to be if you have asthma," she said.

Reporter James Bruggers can be reached at (502) 582-4645.

Smog days
Here are the number of days during 2005, 2006 and through today that monitors in the five-county Louisville area registered ozone levels at or above the lower and upper range of the proposed ozone standard.

2005 2006 2007* 2005 2006 2007*
7601 Bardstown Road 21 5 15 8 3 5
Oldham County 47 25 15 33 11 8
Clark County, Ind. 33 7 no data 15 4 no data
New Albany, Ind. 23 14 9 12 7 6
Shepherdsville 22 6 10 8 1 5
7201 Watson Lane 31 11 13 17 7 8
1918 Mellwood Ave. 11 2 10 3 1 5

*Year to date

Source: Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control District, Data comes from LMAPCD, Indiana Department of Environmental Management and Kentucky Division for Air Quality

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There are "standards" and measurements in place that inform the Metro when a day is likely to be an "Ozone Alert Day." When these Ozone Alerts are issued, there are certain activities & practices that can be done in order to decrease the level of pollutants produced. Generally, these actions seem to be directed at you and me - ordinary citizens who wish to see the amount of emissions reduced. But these directions/advisories need to become MANDATORY - mandatory for individuals AS WELL AS FOR BUSINESSES. ALL should sacrifice; ALL should be impacted by these temporary "inconveniences." (Actually, these inconveniences should be incorporated into our ordinary "way of life" day-to-day.)
These steps to curb pollution on Ozone Alert Days should be ENFORCED by means of fines.
If one should reduce emissions by avoiding use of gas mowers, any business or government ALSO needs to comply. One big ol' gas mower operated by the Parks department on an Ozone Alert Day puts out substantially MORE emissions than the much smaller mowers used by home owners in my area. So it doesn't make sense for John Q. Public to avoid cutting his grass to improve the air, while the Highway Department and the Parks Department and So-And-So Lawn Service are all out there belching tons of smoke and emissions all across the Metro. Business as usual - on a day that ISN'T usual.
Drive-through windows should not be merely discouraged on alert days; they should be CLOSED. No bank, pharmacy, or restaurant should be allowed to operate these windows when citizens are told to not use them. DUH!


If we ALL practiced the "avoidances" during alerts, this may reduce the stink enough that no further tightening would need to be imposed on some of our manufacturers.

Posted: Fri Jun 22, 2007 8:03 am


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