The Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) ruled on July 26 that 29 areas in 16 states, including Florida, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, violate the 2010 air quality standard for sulfur dioxide, a pollutant that can cause respiratory issues.  The 29 nonattainment areas will have to reduce emissions from power plants, industrial facilities, and other pollution sources in order to attain its goal of meeting the sulfur dioxide standard in five years.

In addition, companies located in the nonattainment areas requiring modification to their existing facilities, or new companies that desire to do business in the nonattainment areas, will be required to adhere to the new source review permitting requirements regarding air quality.  The EPA set the primary one-hour national ambient air quality standard at 75 parts per billion for sulfur dioxide.

Although the EPA has missed its June statutory deadline to make attainment designations for the entire country, its strategy includes adding or moving air quality monitors near large sources of sulfur dioxide emissions or conducting air quality modeling in the near future.  It is a matter of time before the EPA extends its attainment designations to all 50 states.

Subsequently, the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Counsel have initiated legal action against the EPA in Federal Court, arguing, among other things, that the geographic scope and other particulars of the agency’s enforcement actions concerning exposure to airborne sulfur dioxide were inadequate and in violation of the Clean Air Act.

A complete copy of the rule can be obtained here.