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Area planning commission's committee 'happy' with decision to keep air quality standards unchanged
PERRYVILLE, Mo. -- After spending months awaiting promised stricter ozone standards, the Southeast Missouri Regional Planning and Economic Development Commission's Air Quality Committee is pleased with the EPA's recent decision that current limits will stay in place until 2013.
"Everybody's happy. We got pretty much what we wanted," said David Grimes, deputy director of the commission. "The committee was formed in 2008 specifically to deal with the question of ozone, then EPA said they were going to change the rules. Now, EPA did what they should have done in the first place."
The group, made up of local government, educational institution and business representatives, received reports from Stan Payne with the air quality program at the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and Lachala Kemp with the Environmental Protection Agency during its meeting Friday at the Perryville American Legion.
In September, President Barack Obama announced that the reconsideration process for existing standards for ground level ozone would be discontinued. The current ozone standard of 75 parts per billion was approved in 2008 under President George W. Bush.
The committee also reviewed recent data from the Perry County ozone monitor in Farrar, Mo., and other monitors across the state.
Based on monitored ozone values from 2008 to 2010, the DNR is now recommending to the EPA that St. Louis, St. Charles, Franklin and Jefferson counties be designated a nonattainment area for failure to achieve the 2008 standard.
Local economic development officials had feared a lower ozone standard would result in some Southeast Missouri counties being designated nonattainment zones where new or expanding businesses would face emissions restrictions.
Among the seven Southeast Missouri counties in the planning commission's coverage area, the DNR recommended attainment designations for Perry and Ste. Genevieve counties based on ozone monitor readings in Farrar. Bollinger, Cape Girardeau, Iron, Madison and St. Francois counties are recommended to be designated as attainment/unclassifiable based monitor readings in some nearby counties and the lack of a monitor in other nearby counties.
"While we would prefer 'attainment' designation for all of our counties, we understand that unless there is a monitor, 'attainment/ unclassifiable' is the best available designation," said Bret Burgess, chairman of the Air Quality Committee and St. Francois County commissioner, in a letter the committee approved to send to Wendy Vit, Air Quality Planning section chief with DNR's Air Pollution Control program.
The committee supports the new recommendations, Grimes said.
In 2009, Ste. Genevieve and Perry counties were recommended by DNR as nonattainment areas, but those recommendations were put on hold after the 2008 election, and the EPA began to re-evaluate the 2008 ozone standard under President Obama.
After not meeting for several months while the EPA review was underway, the Air Quality Committee has agreed to resume its quarterly meetings to coordinate efforts to help Southeast Missouri stay in compliance. Its next meeting will be Jan. 27.
98 Grand Ave., Perryville, MO