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EPA Makes Call on Houston Air Quality Areas

Release Date: 4/15/2004
Contact Information: For more information contact the Office of External Affairs at (214) 665-2200.

      Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Montgomery and Waller counties will be included in the Houston/Galveston nonattainment area for the new, stricter 8-hour ozone air quality standard. The area received a "moderate" 8-hour nonattainment classification.

      "This classification is an important step in our national clean air strategy to speed up air quality improvements in our communities.  Today, we are building on the work our dedicated partners for clean air began in 1970 to ensure our children and families have healthy air to breathe and our economy has healthy workers to fuel its productivity," EPA Regional Administrator Richard E. Greene said.  "Building on our momentum and commitment, strengthened by new technology and science, we have a renewed optimism that our goal for clean air is achievable."

      This is part of the first implementation of a major new air standard since the original 1-hour ozone standard nonattainment classifications were made 13 years ago.  Our state partners, working closely with local leaders and citizens, will be required to create clean air plans to achieve the new health-based ozone air quality standard.  The Houston/Galveston area's 8-hour ozone plan is due to EPA in 2007 and must show how the area will reach attainment by 2010.

      The national clean air strategy is expected to accelerate improvements to our nation's air quality.  Over the last 30 years, about half of the air pollution generated in the nation has been eliminated.  EPA expects to duplicate that success in half the time, reducing current air pollution levels nationwide by another 50 percent by 2019.

      EPA is taking steps to help states improve air quality and meet the more stringent standard by proposing a suite of five new national rules for clean air.  The Clean Air Ozone Rules proposed today set the 8-hour nonattainment areas and establish the pathway for meeting the 8-hour standard.  EPA plans to issue a final Clean Air Non-Road Diesel Rule this spring.  The Clean Air Interstate and Clean Air Mercury Rules were proposed in December 2003.  The Clean Air Fine Particles Rules will be proposed later this year.  Combined, these rules are an essential part of our national clean air strategy and are designed to significantly reduce air pollution nationwide.

      The process of designating nonattainment areas plays an important role in letting the public know whether air quality in a given area is healthy.  The new, more stringent standard is based on 8-hour averages of ozone levels.  It reflects a more realistic measure of people's exposure and is more protective of public health than the 1-hour standard.

      More information about the national clean air strategy, ozone classifications across the country and copies of EPA's letters to governors are available at