Crittenden County meets ozone standard, says EPA

Agency set to designate area as in compliance

By Ralph Hardin

The hard-fought effort to have Crittenden County removed from “non-attainment” under ever-tightening environmental standards has apparently come to a positive conclusion The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced late last week that it plans to approve a request by the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) to designate Crittenden County in northeast Arkansas as being in compliance with federal ozone standards, or “attainment.” As a part of the larger Memphis Metropolitan Area – a tri-state region that also includes Shelby County, Tennessee and DeSoto County, Mississippi – Crittenden County has, since 2008, been included in that area’s designation of “non-attainment” for the ozone standard. The EPA is now moving forward on its intention to declare the whole of the Memphis Metropolitan region redesignated as having attained the standard. Local officials praised the move. “This is good news for Crittenden County,” said Mike Demster, director of economic development for the city of Marion. “Much effort by multiple organizations has gone into achieving attainment status. This is a big step to that end.” Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson asked the EPA to change the area’s designation late last year, a move that West Memphis MPO study director Eddie Brawley was pleased to see. “We were happy to hear it,” said Brawley, who back in 2011, likened the ever-changing standards to “moving the goal-posts” every time a new module was put in place. “We are in compliance,” he added. “There’s talk about lowering the standards again, but even by those standards, we’ve still been in compliance over the past three years.” The status change has been elusive for the region, as standards have changed over the past several years. The federal Clean Air Act sets standards for ozone that protect people’s health and the environment. In 2008, under standards in place at that time, the Memphis area was classified as a “marginal non-attainment” area. Such a designation can hinder economic development, particularly in industrial realms, as approval for new business and industry that could result in a larger ozone footprint is difficult to get from the EPA and ADEQ “Arkansas has shown that Crittenden County’s air quality has improved and ozone levels are within the Clean Air Act’s protective levels,” said EPA Regional Administrator Ron Curry. “This is good news for everyone’s health, especially children, the elderly, and those with breathing problems.” The proposed change in designation is still pending approval following publication in the Federal Registration and a 30-day public comment period.


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