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EPA finalizes air quality nonattainment designations for Utah counties

Release Date: 12/22/2008
Contact Information: Callie Videtich, 303-312-6434, videtich.callie@epa.gov; Catherine Roberts, 303-312-6025, roberts.catherine@epa.gov

(Denver, Colo. – December 22, 2008) Utah Governor Jon M. Huntsman, Jr., was notified today of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's final decision on which areas in Utah do not meet the revised 24-hour fine particle standards (PM2.5). These areas have been designated as “nonattainment” areas and will require action in order to achieve a common goal of cleaner, healthier air.

This decision follows a thorough EPA review of the State's recommendations as to which areas should be designated as attainment or nonattainment under the 24-hour PM2.5 standard. In August 2008, EPA sent letters to Governors and Tribal leaders outlining the counties or partial counties that did not meet the federal health-based fine particle air quality standard and invited comments for consideration. EPA evaluated the comments and additional data submitted before making these final decisions. This is the first time Utah has had PM2.5 areas designated as nonattainment.

"PM2.5 levels in Utah communities can be harmful and have considerable impacts on the health of Utah citizens, especially during prolonged inversion events. Designating areas as nonattainment is the first step in development of plans to reduce air pollution emissions along the Wasatch Front," said Carol Rushin, EPA Region 8's Acting Regional Administrator. "We will work closely with the State to define the pollution sources and to identify potential controls in order to bring these areas back into attainment."

According to state-validated air quality monitoring data from 2005, 2006 and 2007, several counties in Utah violated the 24-hour PM2.5 federal standard. Based on this data, EPA designated three areas in Utah as nonattainment. The areas are: 1) part of Utah County; 2) part of Cache County in Utah and Franklin County in Idaho; and 3) Salt Lake, Davis and parts of Weber, Box Elder and Tooele Counties.

EPA is required to designate not only violating areas, but nearby areas that contribute to those violations; thus explaining the inclusion of parts of Box Elder and Tooele Counties as nonattainment. EPA's study of the growth, meteorology, topography and emission sources in Box Elder and Tooele Counties led to the conclusion that the counties contribute to the PM2.5 violations in the nearby counties.

These designations start a three-year process in which local and state officials develop and implement a plan to reduce PM2.5 pollution to levels that are healthier and in compliance with federal standards.

PM2.5 -- approximately 1/30th the size of an average human hair -- can aggravate heart and lung diseases and has been associated with a variety of serious health problems including heart attacks, chronic bronchitis and asthma. Sources of PM2.5 include fuel combustion from automobiles, power plants, wood burning, industrial processes and diesel-powered vehicles such as buses and trucks. In September 2006, EPA dramatically strengthened the fine particle standards to protect public health, tightening the 24-hour standard from 65 to 35 micrograms per cubic meter.

EPA's action today is part of a wider decision to designate 211 counties or parts of counties throughout the U.S. as PM2.5 nonattainment areas. EPA notified 25 governors and 23 tribal leaders that certain areas in their states and tribal lands do not meet the agency’s daily standards for fine particle pollution.

For additional information, please visit: http://www.epa.gov/pmdesignations/2006standards/index.htm