Ohio EPA identifies counties not meeting federal ozone standard

By ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS, AP Statehouse Correspondent

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - State environmental regulators have submitted a final list to the federal government of 33 Ohio counties, including most in northeast Ohio, that don't meet a new federal ozone standard.

The listing is the first step in a years-long process that could lead to further regulation of polluting industries. Tuesday was the deadline for states to submit their list of counties.

The counties where the state's major cities are located and many counties surrounding those cities are included in the list. The U.S. EPA must develop final designations of counties not meeting the standard by April 2004.

The state then has three years to develop a plan for reducing pollution in those areas, said Ohio EPA spokeswoman Heidi Griesmer. That could include reducing emissions from power plants, large industrial boilers and vehicles, she said.

Business groups will lobby for a plan that focuses on reducing vehicle emissions rather than further regulation of industry, said Linda Woogon, vice president for governmental affairs for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.

By reducing car pollution, "you get very large reductions in emissions with relatively little investment," Woogon said Tuesday. "On the other hand, if you try and impose greater regulation on stationary sources like your big manufacturers, it's much more expensive for fewer reduction."

But the Ohio Environmental Council said the real source of pollution is power plants and large vehicles with diesel engines such as heavy trucks, buses and farm equipment.

Cars are also a major source of pollution but car makers have gone farther in reducing vehicle emissions, said Kurt Waltzer of the Ohio Environmental Council.

Tuesday's announcement followed the U.S. EPA's decision in November to resume asking states to submit a list of counties that would not be able to meet the requirement for limiting ozone, a major component of smog.

The U.S. EPA decision came in a proposed court settlement with environmental groups.

The Clinton administration had begun that process, but industry groups brought it to a halt by challenging the new ozone standard all the way to the Supreme Court, which upheld the new standard in February 2001.

The 1997 standard limited ozone to 0.08 parts per million, instead of 0.12 parts per million, a standard issued in 1979. It also required averaging measurements of the pollution over eight hours, instead of one hour, to better reflect actual air quality.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)