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EPA Designates 8-Hour Ozone Standard Nonattainment Areas for New England Accepts States' Recommendations for Designations

Release Date: 12/04/2003
Contact Information: David Deegan, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1017

BOSTON – As part of continuing state and federal efforts to make the nation's air healthier to breathe, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today took an important step closer to naming new areas that will be required to reduce emissions of ozone-causing pollution to meet more protective future standards. EPA today told states whether the agency agrees with their suggested boundaries for areas that do not meet the new national 8-hour ozone standard.

In New England, EPA agreed with all the states' recommendations. The nonattainment areas for the 8-hour standard are similar to nonattainment areas for the previous one-hour ozone standard, covering all of Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts and southern and coastal areas of New Hampshire and Maine, with all of Vermont meeting the standard.

EPA issued the 8-hour ozone standard in 1997, based on information demonstrating that the 1-hour standard was inadequate for protecting public health. The new standard is based on 8-hour averages of ozone levels, which reflects a more realistic measure of people's exposure and is more protective of public health. Under the federal Clean Air Act, states with areas not meeting the standard must take steps to reduce air pollution, submitting plans by April 2007 on how they will achieve the standard.

Today's action comes two days after an address by EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt which previewed his 500-day action plan to significantly improve the nation's air quality.

"Over the next decade, the United States will experience the most accelerated improvement in air quality in history," said EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt. "This is an important step in that progress, because it will help states and EPA to determine areas of the country that need to further reduce emissions to meet a new, more stringent air quality standard for ozone."

"Our partners in New England state governments have done an excellent job of identifying areas that will need attention to attain the 8-hour ozone standard," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England office. "We can now work on reducing emissions in nonattainment areas across the country, which will bring healthier air for all New Englanders."

EPA anticipates publishing a final implementation rule in early 2004. That rule will outline the requirements nonattainment areas must meet as they work to clean the nation's air. EPA is scheduled to finalize nonattainment area designations by April 15, 2004. By agreeing with the New England states today, EPA expects that the state's recommended boundaries will be the final boundaries.

Ground-level ozone, or ‘smog' forms when emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) react in sunlight on hot days. NOx and VOCs emissions come from a variety of sources, including power plants, factories, motor vehicles and chemical solvents.

To read the state recommendations and EPA response letters, go to http://www.epa.gov/oar/oaqps/glo/designations/. To view a map of the areas in New England which were recommended as nonattainment, go to http://www.epa.gov/region1/images/nattain-8hr.gif.