Beaumont-Port Arthur area hits ozone mark
EPA to recognize region’s compliance with federal air quality standard
Officials from the Environmental Protection Agency and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality joined representatives from the Beaumont-Port Arthur area today to celebrate the region reaching the national eight-hour standard for ozone.
“This is an important clean air milestone for everyone in the Beaumont-Port Arthur area,” said EPA Regional Administrator Richard E. Greene. “EPA is pleased to recognize the committed efforts of the many residents and industry leaders who have worked side-by-side with air quality staff at the local, state and federal levels to reduce ozone in the region.”
“I want to congratulate all of our partners in the Beaumont-Port Arthur area for achieving this significant clean air standard,” said TCEQ Chairman Buddy Garcia. “This community’s can-do spirit has produced real results that mean reduced ozone levels and improved air quality for all of the citizens in the Golden Triangle region.”
The Beaumont-Port Arthur area includes Hardin, Jefferson, and Orange counties. Ozone monitoring data from 2005 to 2007 shows that the area meets both the eight-hour ozone standard and the former one-hour standard. EPA revoked the one-hour standard of 0.12 parts per million (ppm) in 2005 with regulations to implement the more protective eight-hour standard of 0.08 ppm.
“We are proud of our local elected officials who have worked tirelessly in stressing the importance of attaining this goal and we will continue this process into the future to guarantee clean air for our region,” said Shaun Davis, Executive Director, South East Texas Regional Planning Commission. “This achievement shows the commitment of our citizens, industry leaders and local government to work together through positive programs like the Ozone Action Day Program.”
“The South East Texas Regional Planning Commission will continue its efforts to encourage proactive voluntary initiatives like the Ozone Action Day Program, promotion of Alternative Fueled Vehicle use, Carpool and Vanpool programs and the Household Hazardous Waste / Scrap Tire Collection events,” said Bob Dickinson, Director of Transportation & Environmental Resources, South East Texas Regional Planning Commission.
Now that the region has reached ozone attainment levels, officials will continue to work to ensure the area remains in compliance. Last year, EPA proposed to strengthen the eight-hour standard for ground-level ozone to within a range of 0.070 to 0.075 ppm. A final decision on a new eight-hour standard is expected by March 12, 2008.
The Beaumont-Port Arthur area is currently designated as a marginal eight-hour ozone nonattainment area. Although it is now in attainment for ozone, EPA proposed to reclassify the region to “moderate” in October 2007 because the region’s ozone levels averaged 0.085 ppm from 2004 to 2006, narrowly missing the standard by the June 15, 2007 attainment deadline. EPA is required to reclassify the area based on the previous data. The fact that it attained the standard by the end of 2007 provides great optimism that air quality in the region is on track.
Ozone is a gas that occurs naturally in the upper atmosphere to protect the Earth from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. At ground level, pollutants released from vehicles, factories and other sources combine to form the ozone mixture commonly known as smog. Smog can cause respiratory problems including coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest pain. The risk is greatest for people with asthma, children and the elderly.
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