Governor Mitch Daniels and Attorney General Greg Zoeller announced today the state will appeal a decision of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and seek to restore ozone attainment status for Lake and Porter counties.
"Indiana's air is cleaner than it's ever been in modern times. Every county in the state meets air quality limits for the first time in the history of the Clean Air Act, yet we're about to be punished by the EPA because Illinois' air doesn't," said Daniels. "EPA's restrictions make it harder to hire people, and we don't want to lose jobs in Indiana, where the air is clean, because the air isn't clean enough in Illinois."
Earlier this year the EPA notified Indiana that new air quality data submitted by Illinois showed one monitor on the Illinois-Wisconsin border exceeded the ozone standard by less than 1 percent. The agency said it would designate Lake and Porter counties as nonattainment simply because they are in the Chicago metropolitan statistical area. That action becomes effective on Friday.
"By arbitrarily lumping us in with Chicago's dirty air, EPA has wrongly penalized northwest Indiana even though Lake and Porter counties are within the proper ozone levels and the federal nonattainment designation would do nothing to improve air quality in the two counties. The state will ask the federal appeals court to stay this EPA action before the burdensome new nonattainment permit requirements force local companies to move their expansion projects elsewhere due to cost," Zoeller said.
The state's petition for judicial review, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, will ask that EPA's nonattainment designation for Lake and Porter counties be replaced with the designation of attainment for all pollutants.
EPA can designate portions of one statistical area as attainment while maintaining other portions as non-attainment.
"In the interest of fairness, EPA has carved out clean-air regions in places like Columbus, Ohio and Knoxville, Tennessee," said Daniels. "There's no excuse for discrimination against Indiana in this case."
The air in Lake and Porter counties has met the ozone standard and all other air quality standards since the end of the 2007-2009 measurement period, the first time under the Clean Air Act that all areas of the state have met air quality standards.
According to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM), Illinois exempted all vehicles produced before 1996 from its vehicle emissions testing program. Because of the exemption, the older vehicles were not tested and repaired and impacted the Illinois air monitor. Had the emissions testing program continued, the monitor, like the other 20 monitors, would have met the standard.
In addition, air quality modeling shows that Milwaukee, which the EPA designates as attainment, contributes more pollution to the monitor that is over the standard than Lake and Porter counties.
"Indiana businesses and the citizens of Lake and Porter counties have invested tens of millions of dollars to meet air quality standards, and we'll do all we can to assure the EPA recognizes this accomplishment," said Tom Easterly, IDEM commissioner.
NOTE: Attorney General Zoeller will be in Lake County today at 1 p.m. (Central Time) at the Merrillville Town Complex, Town Council meeting room, 7820 Broadway, Merrillville to further discuss the petition at a news conference.