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EPA finalizes air quality nonattainment designation for Libby, Mont.

Release Date: 12/22/2008
Contact Information: Callie Videtich, 303-312-6434,; Catherine Roberts, 303-312-6025,

(Denver, Colo. – December 22, 2008) Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer was notified today of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's final decision to designate Libby, Mont., as a nonattainment area, as it failed to meet the revised 24-hour fine particle (PM2.5) air quality standard. This designation will require action in order to achieve a common goal of cleaner, healthier air.

This decision follows a thorough EPA review of the State's recommendations as to which areas should be designated as attainment or nonattainment under the 24-hour PM
2.5 standard. In August 2008, EPA sent letters to Governors and Tribal leaders outlining the counties or partial counties in their states it intended to designate as nonattainment areas. According to state-validated air quality monitoring data from 2005, 2006 and 2007, the Libby area of Montana violated the 24-hour PM2.5 federal standard.

"Over the past several years, local and state agencies have made great strides in their work with Libby citizens to reduce PM
2.5 levels," said Carol Rushin, EPA Region 8's Acting Regional Administrator. "Unfortunately, for the time period reviewed, those measures have not been enough to bring air pollution levels in Libby into attainment of the PM2.5 standard."

Rushin noted that this designation becomes effective in April, 2009. Before February 20, 2008, the State will have the opportunity to review and provide more recent 2008 data to EPA for consideration. If the new data for the most recent three-year period - 2006 to 2008 - indicates that the area is attaining the standard, EPA will reconsider the nonattainment designation.

"If the data still indicates nonattainment," Rushin said, "we will work closely with the State to further define controls that can be used to reduce pollution levels and health impacts and bring this area back into attainment."

2.5 -- 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. Sources of PM2.5 include fuel combustion from wood burning, gasoline automobiles, diesel-powered vehicles such as trucks and busses, power plants and industrial processes. 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.

EPA's action today is part of a wider decision to designate 211 counties or parts of counties throughout the U.S. as PM
2.5 nonattainment areas. EPA notified 25 governors and 23 tribal leaders that certain areas in their states and tribal lands do not meet the agency’s daily standards for fine particle pollution.

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