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EPA to Reclassify Washington, D.C. Nonattainment for Ground Level Ozone from Serious to Severe

Release Date: 11/13/2002
Contact Information: Donna Heron, 215-814-5113

Donna Heron, 215-814-5113

PHILADELPHIA – In compliance with an order from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed changing the ground level ozone designation for the Washington, D.C. area from serious to severe nonattainment.

The notice of proposed rulemaking was published today in the Federal Register and establishes a 30-day public comment period. EPA anticipates issuing the final rule in late January 2003.

This action resulted from a court ruling on a lawsuit requiring EPA to reclassify the area for failing to attain the one-hour ozone standard by Nov. 15, 1999, as required by the Clean Air Act.

Although air quality in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area has been improving since 1989, the new designation will impose more stringent ozone control measures in the District of Columbia; five counties in Virginia (Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William and Stafford), and five counties in Maryland (Calvert, Charles, Frederick, Montgomery and Prince George’s.)

In anticipation of the redesignation, the EPA has been working closely with Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia because the change will trigger requirements for additional control measures. The deadline for a new plan to reduce emissions will be March 2004. The plan must include:

* Emission control and permitting requirements will now apply to smaller pollution sources emitting 25 tons per year of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or nitrogen oxides (NOx).

* Businesses that intend to increase VOC or NOx emissions must obtain a greater offset or reduction from a different source of these pollutants. The offset ratio increases from 1.2 to 1.3 to 1.

* Measures to reduce ozone-forming emissions by at least three percent each year after 1999 until the Washington, D.C. area meets federal clean air standards.

Today’s proposed rulemaking complies with a July 2, 2002 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals in a Clean Air Act lawsuit brought by the Sierra Club. The suit challenged EPA’s 2001 approval of the D.C. area’s attainment plan, which included an extension of the attainment deadline from 1999 to 2005 without reclassifying the area’s ozone nonattainment status because of the significant impact of upwind sources on the air’s air quality. .

The D.C. area has already implemented many of the control measures required under the severe designation, such as requiring cleaner reformulated gasoline and establishing enhanced motor vehicle inspection and maintenance programs. Maryland and Virginia have also implemented controls on existing sources of VOCs above the 25-ton threshold.

March 2004 is the proposed deadline for revisions to state implementation plans in order to meet all requirements for a severe non-attainment area.

EPA officials will be available to answer media questions at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 13. The call-in number is 215-814-5995.