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EPA and Illinois Announce Lemont Area Now Meets Federal Air Quality Standard for Sulfur Dioxide

06/25/2020
Contact Information: 
Joshua Singer (singer.joshua@epa.gov)
312-353-5069

Lemont, Ill. (June 25, 2020) – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Illinois EPA announced the formal redesignation of the Lemont area to attainment of the most recent federal air quality standard for sulfur dioxide. Recent air monitoring data show the area now meets the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for sulfur dioxide. 

 “EPA’s partnership with the State of Illinois has resulted in cleaner, healthier air in the Lemont area, which is home to more than 160,000 people,” said EPA Region 5 Administrator Kurt Thiede. “Now that Lemont has been redesignated, local businesses face fewer air permitting restrictions, paving the way for the infrastructure investment and economic development that help create jobs.”

“Illinois EPA worked hard to ensure that the rules enabling us to get to this point protected the environment and reduced sulfur dioxide emissions,” said Illinois EPA Director John J. Kim.  "We are pleased these efforts were achieved while also being fair to Illinois businesses.”

“Clean air, clean water and a healthy environment are the building blocks of a strong community,” said Bolingbrook Mayor Roger Claar. “Bolingbrook is happy to work with our neighbors, the EPA, and the IEPA to ensure that our region continues to meet national ambient air quality standards in order to provide a better future for generations to come.”

The Trump Administration has redesignated 23 nonattainment areas since 2017 in EPA Region 5, which is comprised of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Attainment redesignations mean cleaner air, improved health outcomes, and greater economic opportunities for cities and communities across the country.

Under President Trump, combined emissions of criteria and precursor pollutants in the U.S. have dropped 7% and the amount of sulfur dioxide in our air decreased 16%. Nationally, the Trump Administration has redesignated 41 nonattainment areas since 2017.

The Lemont area, which is comprised of three townships in Cook and Will counties, was designated nonattainment for sulfur dioxide in 2013 based on air monitoring data. Illinois EPA worked collaboratively with EPA to develop strategies for attaining the sulfur dioxide standard, which included new emission limits for two power plants and three other industrial facilities in the area. Three years of recent monitoring data show the Lemont area is now attaining the 2010 NAAQS for sulfur dioxide.

Along with the redesignation, EPA is approving Illinois’ maintenance plan to ensure that the area will continue to meet the sulfur dioxide standard. The redesignation was finalized after the public had an opportunity to comment on the proposal.

Reduced sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere means cleaner healthier air for the citizens of Lemont, especially children, the elderly, and those who suffer from asthma and are particularly sensitive to effects of sulfur dioxide. Reduced levels of sulfur dioxide and other sulfur oxides are also good for the environment. A decrease in these compounds means less chances of haze and acid rain, which can harm sensitive ecosystems.

Nationally, average concentrations of sulfur dioxide decreased 80% from 2000 to 2018. All other air pollutants regulated under NAAQS – carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, and particulate matter – have also significantly decreased thanks to the various air quality management and control strategies developed and implemented at the local, state, regional, and national level.

For more information about air quality: https://www3.epa.gov/airquality/cleanair.html

For current air quality information in your area: https://www.airnow.gov/