The Department of Environmental Protection published notice in the April 22 PA Bulletin it was removing 8 counties in Western Pennsylvania from nonattainment area designation for EPA’s 2015 ozone pollution standard.
DEP said updated 2016 monitoring data shows the areas are now in attainment of the 700 ppb ozone standard.
The counties removed from nonattainment designation are: Indiana County and the seven-county Pittsburgh Region-- Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland.
DEP recommended Lebanon County and the Philadelphia Region-- Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties-- remain as nonattainment areas.
Nonattainment status means DEP will have to develop a plan outlining the additional measures it will take to control volatile organic compound and nitrogen oxide emissions to attain the standard and submit that plan to EPA.
DEP noted it did not recommend Berks County be designated as nonattainment even though monitoring shows a violation of the 2015 ozone standard because the violations were due to a major forest fire event.
DEP is preparing an “exceptional events” analysis for both Berks and Lebanon counties to be submitted to EPA to show the monitoring results were invalid based on the forest fire event.
Public hearings were held on the original nonattainment designations in August 2016.
Pending Federal Ozone Standard Action
On April 11 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia agreed to delay oral arguments in a lawsuit brought against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2015 ozone pollution standard.
The ruling is a victory for the Trump Administration which asked for the delay to give the EPA more time to determine whether the rule needs to be changed or eliminated. The standard, finalized under the Obama Administration, lowered the allowable concentration of ozone from 75 parts per billion to 70 parts per billion.
It is not clear whether the EPA will make major changes to the rule as the Trump Administration has yet to announce any official policy statement on federal ozone standards.
Repealing or changing the rule would require an extensive regulatory process that could take a year or more to complete.
The Justice Department told the court in a written brief that “the EPA intends to closely review the 2015 rule, and the prior positions taken by the agency with respect to the 2015 rule may not necessarily reflect its ultimate conclusions after that review is complete.”
The Court ordered the EPA to report back on its progress within 90 days.
PA, 8 States Call On EPA To Reduce Coal Power Plant Emissions
Pennsylvania and 8 other states called on EPA to reduce emissions from coal-fired power plants in 9 midwest and southern states to help reduce the regional causes of ozone pollution.
More information about the revised designations will be posted on DEP’s Bureau of Air Quality webpage. Questions should be directed to Kirit Dalal, Bureau of Air Quality, by sending email to: email@example.com or calling 717-787-9495.
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