Saturday, August 04, 2001

City's clean air rating argued before court


Environmentalists say public health is put at risk

By John Nolan
The Associated Press

        The government wrongly concluded last year that the Cincinnati metropolitan area's air satisfies clean-air requirements, and that decision is putting public health at risk, environmentalists told a court Friday.

        A lawyer for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency argued, however, that the agency had the discretion to make the decision.

        The Sierra Club failed to show how the EPA's conclusion will pose health hazards, EPA lawyer Melaine Williams said.

        David Baron, lawyer for the Sierra Club, asked the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday to reverse the EPA's June 2000 decision.

        Appeals judges Eric Clay, Ronald Gilman and Thomas Wiseman took the case under review and did not say when they will rule.

        Mr. Baron said the EPA's ruling that the atmosphere in the Ohio River Valley complies with clean-air limits for ozone — a lung irritant — was contrary to the EPA's own internal projections from computer-modeling studies.

        The agency overstepped its authority and gave Ohio and Kentucky a break by ruling that the Cincinnati region now complies with the ozone standard, Mr. Baron said.

        He said air quality in southwest Ohio and northern Kentucky is still a problem. Ozone buildups could hurt asthma sufferers and others with chronic respiratory ailments, he said.

        Auto and industrial emissions are major contributors to the formation of ozone in the atmosphere.

        The EPA ruled that a seven-county area — Hamilton, Butler, Clermont and Warren counties in Ohio and Kenton, Boone and Campbell counties in Kentucky — failed to comply with the ozone standard since the late 1970s, then decided last year the region is now in compliance.

        That decision gives federal regulators less power to force Ohio and Kentucky to use the best available clean-air technologies if the region's air violates the ozone limit again, Mr. Baron told the appeals court.

        Mr. Baron also said the EPA violated its authority under the Clean Air Act by not requiring Ohio to adopt stricter standards to limit industrial pollution.

       



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