Federal smog standards may affect Grand Valley

Tougher smog standards could affect the Grand Valley, possibly requiring measures such as emissions tests for vehicles and emissions controls on industry.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will lower the primary standard for smog pollutants from the current 75 parts per billion threshold to a level between 60 and 70 parts per billion.

“Where they set it determines whether we have a problem,” Mesa County Commission Chairman Craig Meis said.

Mesa County is at least one year from being affected because three years of data are required for the determination, and the county has collected ozone data for two years, said Mike Brygger, air-quality specialist with the Mesa County Health Department.

If the standard “comes in around 65 (parts per billion), we’ll be in non-attainment,” Brygger said. “If it’s 68 (parts per billion), we’ll be OK. So, time will tell.”

The Health Department began monitoring ozone levels in Palisade in 2007.

Ozone levels are represented by a running average of readings over an eight-hour period. The agency uses the fourth maximum reading of those averages to determine whether an area is in compliance.

“You’re allowed three maximums” before an area can be determined to be falling short of attainment of the standards, Brygger said.

In 2008, Mesa County’s fourth maximum reading was 70 parts per billion, and it was 63 parts per billion in 2009, Brygger said.

Areas with ozone levels greater than the standard must take several measures, including emissions testing for vehicles, vapor-recovery systems at gas stations, emissions controls on industry and new reporting requirements for local government.

“Administratively, it will be very taxing for the county and the state because of all the regulations they’ll have to meet,” Brygger said.

The commissioners have yet to discuss what, if any, position to take, Meis said.

Even before the federal decision is made, “I can assure you,” Meis said, “it will be a huge unfunded mandate. Every time they change a standard, it never comes with dollars.”

The Environmental Protection Agency will take public comment for 60 days after the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register.

It also is scheduled to conduct public hearings on the proposal in Virginia, Texas and California.


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