Cass County ozone classified ‘marginal’

Published 1:59 am Friday, September 17, 2004

By By JOHN EBY / Niles Daily Star
CASSOPOLIS - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Mike Leavitt announced here Thursday his approval of the ozone non-attainment area reclassification of Cass County from "moderate" to the next lower classification - "marginal."
The former Utah governor made the announcement in the county seat, at a podium outside the 1899 courthouse, acknowledging jobs are a factor in addition to clean air.
He led his state during the 2002 Olympic Winter Games at Salt Lake City.
Leavitt, Utah's 14th governor, was sworn in as EPA's 10th administrator on Nov. 6, 2003.
He was born Feb. 11, 1951, in Cedar City, Utah. He and his wife, Jacalyn, are the parents of five children.
Shifting forward to a second scene, where maps are spread across his table for perusal by clean-air experts, "They're saying to me that there's this county called Cass County that has a monitor. It's demonstrating with the monitor that it's not in compliance. We don't have any alternative under the law, except to designate it as being in non-attainment.
Leavitt said the change means the area is expected to achieve cleaner air sooner.
While moderate areas must attain the national air quality standard for eight-hour ozone by June 2010, marginal areas must meet the standard by June 2007.
Thursday's action approved a state request to reclassify Cass County.
High air pollution levels in Cass County largely result from emissions from upwind Indiana and Illinois areas.
A marginal non-attainment classification will provide the county with the necessary flexibility to address the transport problem without implementing control programs that fail to target true causes.
The marginal classification also allows the county to establish controls consistent with neighboring areas in southwest Michigan and northwest Indiana, while enabling Cass County to achieve its clean air goals earlier.
EPA approved the request under a Clean Air Act provision that allows reclassification of non-attainment areas if they fall within 5 percent of a lower non-attainment classification.
The change also means that the areas will have greater flexibility to select control measures that will be most effective in reducing ozone levels in their respective areas.
While the action requires early attainment, areas will be subject to fewer mandatory emission reduction programs.
Leavitt explained America's "clean air strategy. Actually, we've made quite a bit of progress under it. There are five parts to it. Part one, we set protective standards for our air. That's done by the national government under the direction of Congress. Part two, we designate the areas that are in attainment or not in attainment. Part three, we create plans in every state that will lead to their attainment. Part four, we create tools for states to come into attainment that did not accomplish certain things on their own. A good example is power plants and emissions that float over communities like here in Cass County. Lastly, we have a no-backslide policy. Once we're there, we want to stay there."
Later this year, Leavitt will sign into effect the Clean Air Interstate Rule.
Changing the way diesel fuel is made
Which means, Leavitt continued, "Power plants which are contributing to the clean air situation in Cass County and to its non-attainment will dramatically begin to reduce. We've also put into place the Clean Air Diesel Rule.
Leavitt thanked county commissioners and County Administrator Terry Proctor for arranging his visit on short notice and for their willingness to work with EPA "to assure that Cass County not only has clean air, but we're able to accomplish it in a way that meets the President's goal of assuring that we maintain America's economic competitiveness."
Cass County's congressman, U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, "has been dogged on this issue," Leavitt said. "He served you very well in making this case that this area needed consideration."
Board of Commissioners Vice Chairman Ron Francis, R-Cassopolis, welcomed Leavitt on behalf of the county. designations/