State challenges EPA’s air-quality designation in Lake, Porter counties
By Maria Amante email@example.com/648-3072 July 19, 2012 7:32PM
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller
Updated: July 20, 2012 9:18AM
Attorney General Greg Zoeller has filed an injunction with the U.S. Court of Appeals against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, challenging the agency’s characterization of air quality in Lake and Porter counties.
Zoeller is asking for judicial review on the classification before Lake and Porter counties would be forced to adhere to additional EPA requirements for air quality.
In June, the EPA designated the Chicago metropolitan statistical area as nonattainment status for 2008 ozone standards.
Zoeller said all Indiana counties, including Lake and Porter counties, meet or exceed the EPA standard for ozone and, as a result, Indiana should not be penalized for a Chicago problem.
“What is at stake for the people of Northwest Indiana can’t be understated,” he said. “This has a direct impact on our economy as well as our standard of living in these two counties. No one has claimed that our air quality is not sufficient in these two counties, it’s really a question of the neighboring … the city of Chicago that puts us in the nonattainment standard.”
The CMSA area includes Lake and Porter counties, and areas in Illinois and Wisconsin. Twenty-two monitors were in place during testing, and one in that area failed the test. The failing monitor was in Zion, Ill., and as a result pushed the region to nonattainment status.
Zoeller said the EPA should have done more testing and on a larger area before using one meter’s reading and classifying an entire region as within nonattainment status.
“We’re asking the courts to stop requiring us to do additional things until we can go through administrative review,” he said. “All the science needs to be checked; we don’t want the EPA just to issue rulings that will dramatically affect our cities and towns in Indiana.”
With the nonattainment standard, Zoeller said businesses that wish to locate or expand in Lake or Porter counties would need to undergo additional EPA review.
He also said he plans to file a lawsuit later this year challenging Lake and Porter counties inclusion in the region. Zoeller said he wants to know why the two counties were included in the CMSA, as the regional designation seems arbitrary.
In a statement, EPA spokeswoman Phillippa Cannon said the EPA will review the attorney general’s petition.
“While Lake and Porter counties in Indiana are not in violation of the ozone standard, they were found to contribute to harmful levels of ozone pollution in Lake County, Ill., and were included as part of the nonattainment area,” she said. “Ozone exposure is harmful to people’s health and can lead to premature death, especially in people with heart and lung disease.”
The average daily value of ozone is 0.064 parts per million in Lake County, and 0.065 ppm in Porter County.
The EPA’s standard for ozone is 0.075 ppm.
The state has been considering a lawsuit since June, after the designation was released. Previously, Indiana Department of Environmental Management spokesman Rob Elstro said the state was mulling a lawsuit because of the economic impact.
“There are additional requirements for businesses (that relocate or start operations in nonattainment areas),” he said in June. “It might be a deterrent for people to move there if it’s seen as an area with poor air quality.”
In an April letter from IDEM to the EPA, IDEM said the EPA’s treatment of Lake and Porter counties is inconsistent with similar situations across the country, and also questions the science behind including the counties in the Chicago statistical area.