U.S. Senators Roger Wicker and Thad Cochran along with Representative Alan Nunnelee on Tuesday afternoon met with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson to express their opposition to the federal agency's proposal to include DeSoto County with Memphis for violation of ozone emission standards. Failure to comply with the EPA standards could hamper economic and community growth in DeSoto County.
"Desoto County has gone above and beyond what is required by EPA to lower their ozone emissions," Wicker said. "Emissions have remained below the level set by the law. Holding the county accountable for a violation they have not committed would hurt job opportunities in Mississippi."
"We met with Administrator Jackson to outline credible, fact-based arguments against her agency's emissions standard proposal, which would unfairly penalize DeSoto County. This plan is problematic not only on an environmental basis, but also on the grounds that it fails to give adequate consideration to the economic impact on this area of Mississippi. The Environmental Protection Agency is misguided in this instance and should withdraw DeSoto County from this proposal," Cochran said.
"I appreciate Administrator Jackson taking the time to hear our position," said Nunnelee. "Desoto County has been proactive in improving air quality and the numbers show that pollution is trending down as a result. It would be wrong and counterproductive to punish their good faith efforts and I am hopeful that EPA will reconsider their decision."
In December 2011, EPA announced a proposal to include parts of DeSoto County with Memphis, which has ozone emissions that are above allowable limits set by federal regulation. The plan would include the urban areas of DeSoto County and Crittenden County, Arkansas, in the Memphis ozone non-attainment area.
DeSoto County was excluded from the Memphis non-attainment area in 2004 because the county did not significantly contribute to ozone levels in the Memphis area. Since that time, ozone concentrations have dropped in DeSoto County.
The three Mississippi lawmakers met with officials from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and DeSoto County last week. In addition to the congressional delegation's response, the county has worked with MDEQ to stop the ruling.
State and county officials have until February 29, 2012 to submit additional data to support their position, and EPA plans to finalize the ruling by May 31, 2012.