There is good news for area businesses. Additional compliance costs and restrictions on economic growth will be avoided that were deemed all but certain a few years ago. The compliance costs were associated with new air pollution controls needed to achieve U.S. EPA’s 1997 8-hour ozone standard (0.85 ppm). The deadline to meet this standard is 2009.
When I was Director of Ohio EPA, all the modeling and projections showed there was no way Cleveland would meet the standard by the deadline. I remember giving speeches around the State with the basic theme- "we would have to de-populate Cleveland to meet the Ozone deadline." I remember briefing the Governor that it appeared likely the Cleveland-Akron-Lorain Nonattainment Area would have to "bump up" to the next category of nonattainment-"serious." By bumping up Cleveland would buy time to reach the standard, but the cost was a list on new federally mandated controls and restrictions. Bump up would have had devastating impacts on the local economy.
[This is a slide taken from one of the speeches on reaching the ozone standard. The numbers show various ozone levels at each monitor in the nonattainment area after imposing various control options. The black number was a series of draconian measures that would have devastated the local economy. Even after imposing those controls the models predicted continued nonattainment.]
Perhaps this is a lesson about not putting too much faith in modeling, but based upon recent air quality monitoring Cleveland has indeed attained the 1997 8-hour ozone standard. Area businesses may never be fully aware of the crisis that was averted. But this is certainly good news for an area that has struggled to meet federal air quality standards.
Below is additional background on the recent Ohio EPA submittals.
In 2008, Ohio EPA submitted an State Implementation Plan (SIP) for the Cleveland-Akron-Lorain nonattainment area that requested redesignation to attainment status. This was based on monitoring data from 2005,2006 and 2007 that showed Cleveland close to attainment [0.0853 compared to 0.0853].
This month, February 2009 Ohio EPA has prepared an updated attainment demonstration for the Cleveland that incorporates the most recent air monitoring data from the summer of 2008. Due to ever improving air quality, the updated monitoring data shows Cleveland complies with the Standard [0.084 compared to 0.085 standard].
Here is additional detail regarding the two submissions:
2008 Ohio EPA Redesignation Request to U.S. EPA
In the February 2008, Ohio EPA submitted its request to U.S. EPA to have the Cleveland-Akron-Lorain nonattainment area redesignated to attainment. The document included two key conclusions:
1) Monitoring data for 2005-2007 showed the area just above the standard. The data showed 0.853 ppm compared to the 0.85 ppm standard.
2) Ohio EPA was requesting redesignation of the Cleveland-Akron-Lorain area based upon modeling that showed it expected the area to attain the standard by 2009. This was known as the "weight of evidence" approach (WOE). Under the WOE policy, U.S. EPA can redesignate an area attainment even though monitoring data shows it has not met the standard. However, Ohio EPA must provide the federal EPA convincing evidence the area will reach the standard by the 2009 deadline.
Ohio EPA included the following language in the January 2008 submittal to U.S. EPA:
"The (air) modeling results as well as the previously submitted weight of evidence information supports the conclusion that Cleveland-Akron-Lorain OH area should attain the eight-hour ozone standard on time.
In spite of this evidence, Ohio EPA is developing additional emission reduction options. Ohio EPA recognizes that the ozone standard is currently under review and a final revision to the standard will most likely result in a revised standard that will require additional emission reductions above those necessary to achieve the existing standards. Ohio EPA is currently in discussions with U.S. EPA and local stakeholders assessing the options available to meet the future standard, including the use of lower Reid-Vapor Pressure gasoline. "
Bottom line: Ohio EPA left open the possibility it would impose additional control measures to support its WOE demonstration to U.S. EPA.
2009 Revised Ohio EPA Redesignation Request to U.S. EPA: Ozone levels improved significantly in the summer of 2008. The average of the 2006, 2007 and 2008 ozone seasons shows an overall average of 0.84 ppm which is below the 0.85 ppm standard.
This is very good news for the Cleveland-Akron-Lorain area. This means Ohio EPA no longer has to propose a WOE approach to U.S. EPA. Rather, Ohio EPA can rely on the real monitoring data which already shows attainment with the standard. As a result, all of the language I quoted above regarding evaluating additional control options has been dropped. In the 2009 submittal Ohio EPA states:
"The Cleveland-Akron-Lorain ozone nonattainment area has attained the 1997 NAAQS for ozone and complied with the applicable provisions of the 1990 Amendments to the Clean Air Act regarding redesignations of ozone nonattainment areas…Based on this presentation, the Cleveland-Akron-Lorain ozone nonattainment area meets the requirements for redesignation under the CAA and U.S. EPA guidance….Furthermore, because the area is subject to significant transport of pollutants, significant regional NOx reductions will ensure continued compliance (maintenance) with the standard with an increasing margin of safety."
Bottom line: It appears Ohio EPA is no longer evaluating additional controls to comply with the 1997 ozone standard. In addition, the language referring to "subject to significant transport of pollutants" is a reference to the fact our ozone levels are heavily influenced by emissions from elsewhere in Ohio and the Midwest. This means continued strengthening of programs like CAIR (power plant reductions) will continue to result in improved air quality.
Of course the story does not end here… U.S. EPA is in the process of imposing the new 2008 ozone standard (0.75 ppm). Current monitoring shows Cleveland is a long way from achieving the new standard. Unfortunately, this means Cleveland-Akron-Lorain will not get out from under its nonattainment status anytime in the near future. But at least we are no longer discussing draconian measures to meet the old ozone standard.