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News Releases from Region 05

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

02/19/2020
Contact Information: 
Joshua Singer (singer.joshua@epa.gov)
312-353-5069

CHICAGO (February 19, 2020) --Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Illinois EPA announced their proposal to formally redesignate 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 in addition to all other federal air quality standards set to protect public health. 

“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. “In addition to cleaner air, once Lemont is redesignated, local businesses will face fewer air permitting restrictions, paving the way for the infrastructure investment and economic development that help create jobs.  Over the past two years, EPA’s partnerships with states in Region 5 have dramatically improved air quality in ten former non-attainment areas, which now meet the national health-based standard.”

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.

EPA is proposing to redesignate the Lemont area to attainment and to approve Illinois’ maintenance plan to ensure that the area will continue to meet the sulfur dioxide standard. Once an area has been redesignated to attainment, businesses seeking air permits face fewer permitting restrictions. The redesignation will not be final until the public has 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 is 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 79% from 2000 to 2017. All other air pollutants regulated under NAAQS – carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter and sulfur dioxide – 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.