The Environmental Protection Agency announced on July 31, 2012, that the air quality for Washington County had improved enough to change its status from “nonattainment” to “attainment” for ground-level ozone that provides additional potential and opportunity for major manufacturing and economic growth in Washington County.
This announcement levels the playing field compared to other locations on emissions control for major manufacturing by removing potential growth barriers stemming from the more stringent air permit reviews of the former nonattainment status; allowing Washington County manufacturers to focus on more cost-effective prevention activity. Nonattainment means that a geographical area is considered to have air quality worse than the National Ambient Air Quality Standars as defined in the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1970.
What the New Designation Does Accomplish
According to the DNR Regional Pollutants and Mobile Source Section, Washington County’s achieving “attainment” status for both the 1997 and 2008 EPA air quality standards improves the business and development climate here by offering a few specific advantages:
- Removes any possible economic development stigma associated with the “nonattainment” label
- Raises the threshold for a majority of businesses being considered a “major source” emitter of ozone forming pollutants from 100 tons to 250 tons per year, meaning many more companies will no longer be subject to more stringent permitting and control requirements associated with being a “major source”
- Reduces the cost of growing a manufacturing business by changing the type of emission permitting required for new projects to one that focuses more on maintenance of good air quality and consideration of cost feasibility for emission controls as part of the review process
What the New Designation Does Not Change
The DNR underscores a few noteworthy areas that this new designation does not immediately impact, unless DNR can sufficiently demonstrate to the U.S. EPA that removal would not result in the area exceeding the 1997 or 2008 8-hour ozone standards.
- Certain ozone emission control rules
- Vehicle inspection and maintenance program
- Reformulated gasoline, which DNR notes is hardwired into the Clean Air Act regardless of attainment / nonattainment status, requiring the proverbial “act of Congress” to change
According to DNR, the U.S. EPA is expected to propose another, potentially more stringent, ozone standard by the end of 2013. If the U.S. EPA takes this action, attainment and nonattainment areas would likely be determined nationally in 2015 or 2016.
For more specific information on how this may impact your business, visit the Ozone Fact Sheet.
For questions regarding State Implementation Plans (SIPs), Control Strategies, and Current Air Quality, contact:
Regional Pollutant and Mobile Source Section Chief
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. (2014). Retrieved May 19, 2014, from http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/airquality/ozone.html