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States and Tribes Notified of Areas with Unhealthy Air

Release Date: 12/04/2003
Contact Information:

Cynthia Bergman, 202-564-9828 /

(12/04/03) - Areas that EPA believes should be required to reduce emissions to meet new ground-level ozone health standards were identified in letters sent to states and tribal nations today. The EPA letters state whether the agency agrees with their suggested boundaries for attainment and nonattainment areas for the national 8-hour ozone standard.

“Our goal is clean, safe air for every American to breathe,” said Administrator Mike Leavitt. “We are developing a suite of clean air controls that will help the states and tribes meet these important new health standards.”

The letters are part of a formal designation process that began in July, when states and tribes sent updated nonattainment and attainment area boundary recommendations to EPA. The process plays an important role in letting the public know whether air quality in a given area is healthy. 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.

EPA may designate an area as nonattainment if it violated, or has contributed to violations of, the 8-hour standard over a three-year period. Those areas will be required to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds, which “cook” to form ground-level ozone. Ozone is unhealthy to breathe – especially for people with respiratory diseases, and for children and adults who are active outdoors.

While EPA agrees with the majority of states’ and tribes’ recommendations, the Agency has not concurred with every suggested boundary. In those instances, EPA has outlined the areas it believes should be designated nonattainment or attainment. States and tribes will have the opportunity to discuss the differences with EPA and to submit any new analyses to support their recommendations. EPA is scheduled to make final designations by April 15, 2004.

Once designations take effect, they also become important components of state and local governments’ efforts to control ground-level ozone. EPA anticipates publishing a final rule in early 2004 that will outline the requirements that nonattainment areas must meet as they work to clean their air. Deadlines for meeting the 8-hour ozone standard will range from 2007 to 2021, depending on the severity of an area’s ozone problem.

To read the state/tribal recommendations and EPA response letters, go to .