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EPA Makes Call on San Antonio Air Quality Areas

Release Date: 4/15/2004
Contact Information: For more information contact the Office of External Affairs at (214) 665-2200.

      Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that Bexar, Comal, and Guadalupe counties will be included in the San Antonio nonattainment area for the new stricter 8-hour ozone air quality standard.  Wilson County is not included as a result of EPA's evaluation of additional data provided by state officials.

      The San Antonio area received a "basic" 8-hour nonattainment classification; however, the nonattainment area requirements have been deferred since the area counties banded together in an Early Action Compact to implement air quality improvement practices well before they are required.  In exchange, EPA agreed to defer the effective date of the nonattainment designation to as late as December 2007.

      "This classification is an important step in our national clean air strategy to speed up air quality improvements in our communities.  Today, we are building on the work our dedicated partners for clean air began in 1970 to ensure our children and families have healthy air to breathe and our economy has healthy workers to fuel its productivity," EPA Regional Administrator Richard E. Greene said.  "Building on our momentum and commitment, strengthened by new technology and science, we have a renewed optimism that our goal for clean air is achievable."

      This is part of the first implementation of a major new air standard since the original 1-hour ozone standard nonattainment classifications were made 13 years ago.  Our state partners, working closely with local leaders and citizens, will submit to EPA the San Antonio area Early Action Compact clean air plan to achieve the new health-based ozone air quality standard.  The plan will be submitted in December 2004 and will show how the area will achieve attainment by 2007, two years earlier than otherwise required.

      The national clean air strategy is expected to accelerate improvements to our nation's air quality.  Over the last 30 years, about half of the air pollution generated in the nation has been eliminated.  EPA expects to duplicate that success in half the time, reducing current air pollution levels nationwide by another 50 percent by 2019.

      EPA is taking steps to help states improve air quality and meet the more stringent standard by proposing a suite of five new national rules for clean air.  The Clean Air Ozone Rules proposed today set the 8-hour nonattainment areas and establish the pathway for meeting the 8-hour standard.  EPA plans to issue a final Clean Air Non-Road Diesel Rule this spring.  The Clean Air Interstate and Clean Air Mercury Rules were proposed in December 2003.  The Clean Air Fine Particles Rules will be proposed later this year.  Combined, these rules are an essential part of our national clean air strategy and are designed to significantly reduce air pollution nationwide.

      The process of designating nonattainment areas plays an important role in letting the public know whether air quality in a given area is healthy.  The new, more stringent 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 than the 1-hour standard.

      More information about the national clean air strategy, ozone classifications across the country and copies of EPA's letters to governors are available at