From: Nalia Rulon, Associated Press
Published April 6, 2005 12:00 AM

EPA Says 21 Counties in Nine States Now Meet New Air-Quality Standards

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday that 21 counties in nine states are being removed from the government's watch list of areas in the country with the dirtiest air.


The government had identified 225 counties in 20 states that were either unclassified or not meeting its new clean-air standards for reducing the amount of microscopic soot in the air, putting those areas on notice that they must devise a pollution-reduction plan.


Failure to comply could mean a county will have to limit development and its state could lose federal highway dollars.


Since those designations had been made in December with 2003 data, Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate Change and Nuclear Safety, asked the EPA to review its list based on 2004 information.


The agency said the review indicated that certain areas now have air that is free of dangerous levels of soot, which comes from power plants, car exhaust, diesel-burning trucks, wood-burning stoves and other sources.


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About 5 million people live in these areas and now benefit from cleaner air, the agency said. Soot can penetrate deeply into the lungs, causing respiratory illnesses and heart disease.


EPA's decision also is considered a boon for local officials working to attract development and jobs to their areas.


"These counties will be able to enjoy the benefit of these improvements, both in terms of improved public health and in terms of greater job-creation potential," said Voinovich, who referred to the designations as "economy-strangling limits."


The states with counties now in compliance with the clean-air rules for soot are Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and California.


Source: Associated Press


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