14 areas in 6 states out of compliance with fine-particle limit — EPA 

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, December 19, 2014

U.S. EPA today designated 14 areas in six states as out of compliance with the standard for fine particulate matter, a classification that triggers pollution control plans under the Clean Air Act.

In a final decision posted this afternoon, the agency said air monitoring data from 2011 to 2013 show that those areas are contributing to a violation of the standard. The decision finalizes a proposal from August.

The nonattainment areas are in California, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Pennsylvania. They include areas with persistent air quality problems, including California’s San Joaquin Valley and the Cincinnati and Cleveland metropolitan areas.

Fine particulate matter refers to airborne particles that are about one-thirtieth the width of a human hair. They are linked to adverse health effects such as lung problems.

In 2012, EPA tightened the limit from 15 micrograms per cubic meter to 12 micrograms per cubic meter, based on information about health effects. The tougher standard was praised by health advocates and criticized by industry groups that had wanted EPA to keep the 15-microgram standard.

The designation decisions will become final 90 days after publication in the Federal Register. Under the Clean Air Act, states with nonattainment areas will be required to come up with “state implementation plans” to lower particle pollution to within the standard.

EPA today also deferred designation decisions on several areas because of data quality issues. Those deferrals encompass eight areas in Georgia that also include parts of South Carolina and Alabama, the entire state of Tennessee except three counties, and the entire state of Florida.

The agency said that it expects additional monitoring data collected this year to help it make decisions on all the areas except for Florida. In Florida, EPA said it discovered data quality issues that will require more time to evaluate.

EPA is naming all other areas of the country either “in attainment” or “unclassifiable.”

The agency named the entire state of Illinois, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as parts of Indiana and Missouri, as unclassifiable due to quality assurance issues at four laboratories run by states and local agencies that process particulate matter data.