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Libby, Montana's air quality violates federal fine particulate matter standard

Release Date: 08/19/2008
Contact Information: Callie Videtich, 303.312.6434, Catherine Roberts, 303.312.6025,

(Denver, Colo. -- August 19, 2008) Montana’s Governor Brian Schweitzer was notified today of recommendations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Region 8 office concerning areas of his state that do not meet the federal health-based fine particle (PM2.5 24-hour) air quality standard. EPA's comments are in response to Governor Schweitzer’s letter dated Dec. 11, 2007, which detailed his recommendations for which Montana counties should be designated as not attaining the fine particle standard (also referred to as nonattainment).

Montana is among 25 states nationwide that have areas being formally proposed as nonattainment for failing to meet the PM2.5 standard. Based on the most recent monitoring data, Libby is the only area in Montana that does not meet the standard. EPA has been very supportive and involved in the Libby woodstove changeout program. We recognize the air quality improvements that have resulted from this effort.

"Significant progress has been made through the hard work of both the State and the residents of Libby to reduce PM2.5 levels. We are committed to providing our assistance to state and local government so that Libby can attain the PM2.5 standard,” said Carol Rushin, Region 8's Acting Regional Administrator.

According to state-validated air quality monitoring data from 2005, 2006 and 2007, the Libby area violated the 24-hour PM2.5 federal standard. Based on this data, EPA is recommending that the Libby area be designated as a nonattainment area. When completed, this nonattainment designation starts a process in which local and state officials develop and implement a plan to reduce PM2.5 pollution. However, if Montana can provide certified data for 2008, showing no violation of the standard, EPA would reconsider the designation for Libby.

PM2.5 -- approximately 1/30th the size of an average human hair -- can aggravate heart and lung diseases and has been associated with a variety of serious health problems including heart attacks, chronic bronchitis and asthma attacks. Sources of PM2.5 include fuel combustion from automobiles, power plants, wood burning, industrial processes and diesel-powered vehicles such as buses and trucks. In September 2006, EPA dramatically strengthened the fine particle standards to protect public health, tightening the 24-hour standard from 65 to 35 micrograms per cubic meter.

The State of Montana will have 60 days to provide EPA with additional technical documentation in support of its original recommendations. In addition, for the first time EPA is opening a 30-day public comment period on the recommended nonattainment designations. All interested parties are encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity to submit comments.

Recommendations from states and tribes along with EPA's responses are available at: