By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has signed an agreement with a handful of environmental groups and the American Lung Association that will force it to review current clean air standards and compare them with the latest science.
Congress mandates that the EPA perform the review and comparison every five years, but the nation's top environmental agency has had trouble making its deadlines. The last such review was performed in 1997, after a similar lawsuit was filed by the American Lung Association. The review prior to 1997 happened in 1987.
Dave Deegan, spokesman for the EPA, said the most recent deadline was missed because the agency has been unsuccessful at implementing tougher air quality standards from 1997.
"We came out with the new standards, and we've been tied up in litigation for the full five years," he said. "We have yet to move forward in any meaningful way to implement those new standards."
The new deadlines for completion of the reviews are: particulate matter, such as emissions from smokestacks, December 2005; ozone, an odorless gas and lung irritant that is formed when emissions are heated by the sun, December 2006.
Kurt Walter, coordinator for the Clean Air Program for the Ohio Environmental Council, which was one of the agencies that sued the EPA, said Ohio is in the "red zone" for this type of pollution because of the number of power plants in the Ohio River Valley, the number of urban areas and the industrialized nature of the state.
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