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Release Date: 8/29/2001
Contact Information: Leo Kay, Press Office, 415/744-2201

     Decision could affect local highway, other transportation projects
     SAN FRANCISCO   The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency late yesterday disapproved parts of the 1999 Bay Area Ozone Attainment Plan due to continuing smog violations last year, a move that could delay local highway projects if the plan's deficiencies are not corrected in the next few months.

     The Bay Area Air Quality Management District, Association of Bay Area Governments and Metropolitan Transportation Commission are currently working to finalize a new ozone attainment plan that would supercede the 1999 plan. If the agencies develop a plan the EPA can approve, there should be no impact on Bay Area transportation projects.  The EPA has been working with the Bay Area agencies and the California Air Resources Board to ensure the plan is approvable.

      As part of last month's public hearing process on the draft 2001 plan held by the California Air Resources Board   who must approve the Bay Area plan first   the EPA reached agreement with the plan's authors to further reduce volatile organic compound emissions and to use the results from a comprehensive air study in the Central Valley to re-evaluate future emission reductions.

     "Today's announcement should be rendered null and void by a better, more protective plan; however, it could affect local highway projects if we can't reach consensus," said Jack Broadbent, director of the U.S. EPA's Air Division in San Francisco.  "We are confident that we can work with the California Air Resources Board and the Bay Area agencies to come up with a final plan that cuts Bay Area smog and is also responsive to community concerns."

     In July 1998, the EPA formally declared that the Bay Area=s air was not meeting the federal health standard for ozone.  The EPA set an attainment deadline of November 15, 2000 and required the state and local air quality planning agencies to come up with a strategy to meet that deadline. Earthjustice filed a lawsuit against the EPA in January after the agency failed meet an Oct. 28, 2000 deadline to either approve or disapprove the 1999 plan.

     The EPA made the decision to partially disapprove the plan after holding a 45-day public comment period.

     Ozone, although beneficial in the stratosphere, has harmful health effects when found at ground level.  Exposure to ground-level ozone, even at relatively low levels, can cause respiratory symptoms such as a reduction in lung function, chest pain, and cough.  Repeated exposure can make people more susceptible to respiratory infection and lung inflammation, and can aggravate pre-existing respiratory diseases.