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Crittenden County to Become Economic Development Zone

Release Date: 02/14/2006
Contact Information: Dave Bary, (214) 665-2208, Bary.David@epa.gov

(Dallas, Texas – Feb 14, 2006) Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identified Crittenden County, Arkansas, as a Clean Air Economic Development Zone (EDZ). Crittenden County is the first area in the nation to be identified under the 1990 Clean Air Act for treatment as an Economic Development Zone. This identification will allow the state of Arkansas to develop air quality permitting regulations that offer opportunities for location of new industries in the county that most benefit the local economy and still meet established air quality attainment goals and dates for the greater Memphis area.

“The Economic Development Zone designation shows EPA’s commitment to improve the health and well-being of our communities,” EPA Regional Administrator Richard E. Greene said. “Everyone agrees that clean air is our primary goal. This is another example of how we can achieve clean air and help the local economy at the same time.”

County and Arkansas state officials have worked together on long-term plans to attract quality jobs to the area in an effort to raise the overall standard of living. Plans specifically address clean air goals and any impacts that future growth might have on the local community and the Greater Memphis area.

Governor Mike Huckabee responded to today’s announcement stating “I am very proud that Arkansas is the first state in the nation to receive the Economic Development Zone designation for Crittenden County and we are happy that we have set the curve for the nation. This announcement truly affirms the idea that Arkansas is open for business.”

“I am pleased that EPA has accepted this innovative and forward thinking request to protect the quality of our air and foster the opportunity for economic development. We sought this designation because we were convinced that Arkansas could strategically demonstrate air quality improvement and take advantage of potential development within Arkansas’ Delta Region,” stated Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) Director, Marcus Devine.

“We are of course very pleased with EPA’s decision. This action is the key to economic development in Crittenden County and throughout Arkansas’ Mississippi Delta region. This is truly an area with enormous needs and deserving of such consideration at a time when significant opportunity is within reach,” said Mayor Frank Fogelman of Marion, Arkansas. “We deeply appreciate the support we have received throughout this effort from ADEQ and our Congressional delegation, which has taken a major interest in this issue.”

In April 2004, EPA designated Memphis, including Crittenden County, Arkansas, and Shelby County, Tennessee, as not attaining the health-based national ambient air quality standards for ozone. The area has implemented an air quality plan in an effort to meet these air quality standards by 2007. Until the area is redesignated by EPA as attaining these air quality standards, federal provisions require new industries to offset their permitted increase in ozone forming emissions by a 110 percent reduction in emissions from existing sources. Because of the economic status and reasonable prospects for growth in Crittenden County, the state of Arkansas requested EPA to identify the county as an Economic Development Zone under a provision of the 1990 Clean Air Act that had not been used before.

The State submitted documentation that showed Crittenden County was among the most economically disadvantaged non-attainment areas in the country. The State also submitted modeling and technical analysis that showed clean air goals and schedules would not be affected by a controlled growth of new industry targeted by state and county officials for the area. Under the EDZ provisions, Arkansas will establish a limited growth plan for new industrial sources consistent with modeling performed. Any emission increases by new industry which do not qualify for or exceed the EDZ plan would remain subject to offset requirements. The State would target use of this limited growth plan for industries that most benefit the community and local economy.

In accordance with the Clean Air Act, EPA consulted with the Department of Housing and Urban Development and reviewed the technical justifications and strategic economic development plan submitted by Arkansas before concluding that Crittenden County should be identified as a Clean Air Economic Development Zone. Arkansas will seek adoption of new air quality permitting regulations that incorporate the provisions of the Economic Development Zone for Crittenden County. EPA will then need to review and approve the regulations for the changes to take effect. These new rules were proposed by Arkansas on January 27, 2006, and are undergoing public review and comment.

In 1999, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi developed the Arkansas-Tennessee-Mississippi-Ozone-Study (ATMOS) to evaluate ozone formation in the Memphis Metropolitan area and to identify early actions to reduce contribution from local emissions sources. In Crittenden County, action has included the installation of truck stop electrification, emission controls on area gas stations, and voluntary measures including the use of bio-based fuels by farmers. Since 1999, the levels of ozone in the Memphis area have decreased. The frequency of monitored exceedances have decreased by more than 80%, less than ten days in a four month period in 2005. During the 2005 summer ozone season, ADEQ completed an additional ground based monitoring study, engaged state-of-the-art meteorological services, and conducted flight studies to further analyze the effects of meteorology and ozone formation affecting the Memphis area, including the monitor site located in Crittenden County.

For more information, go to http://www.epa.gov/earth1r6/6pd/air/pd-r/crittendencountyedz.htm