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Published: Saturday, 4/17/2004

Lenawee emissions decision 'a shocker'

BY TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality's chief spokesman said yesterday her agency was stunned to learn the federal government wants Lenawee County's rural pastures to be regulated just as heavily for smog as Detroit's industrial corridor.

Nationwide nonattainment designations for ground-level ozone that were released Thursday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency listed Monroe and Lenawee counties in an eight-county southeast Michigan air district that includes Detroit and Ann Arbor.

The eight-county area was ranked as having a moderately-bad smog problem. That means that - barring a change of heart - all those counties will be subjected to a number of additional regulations.

Among them will be a requirement that vehicles registered in those counties be subjected to annual exhaust inspections at a cost of $20 or more a year.

"It was a shocker," Patricia Spitzley, Michigan DEQ press secretary, said. "Monroe you can kind of understand, but Lenawee?"

Monroe County has one of the nation's largest coal-fired power plants, a facility in Monroe operated by Detroit Edison Co. It also has another large emitter, the Holcim cement plant in Dundee. Lenawee County has no industry that puts as much into the air as either of those two. Monroe County's largest city, Monroe, has slightly more than 22,000 people, while Lenawee County's largest city, Adrian, has slightly fewer.

State Rep. Doug Spade (D., Adrian) also expressed surprise at the U.S. EPA's decision to include Lenawee in the eight-county air district.

Ms. Spitzley said Michigan DEQ officials had asked for Lenawee to be excluded and likely will renew their request.

They also will challenge the U.S. EPA's moderate ranking for Cass and Muskegon counties in western Michigan, she said.

"We have compelling arguments for why Lenawee, Cass, and Muskegon shouldn't be [ranked as] moderate," Ms. Spitzley said.

Under the old one-hour standard for ground-level ozone, Michigan had no counties out of compliance. Ohio had four, all in the Cincinnati area.

Under the new standard, based on a much more stringent threshold and an eight-hour average, Michigan has 25 counties out of compliance. Ohio has 33, including Lucas, Wood, and Allen counties.

The standard was announced in 1997.

But affected counties were not officially designated and ranked by the U.S. EPA until Thursday because of intense lobbying and court battles that have occurred over the past seven years.

A situation similar to Lenawee's plight existed just a few miles south in Ohio.

The Ohio EPA was not sure until Thursday whether rural Fulton and Ottawa counties might be lumped into the Toledo-area district with Lucas and Wood counties and, therefore, be subjected to the same regulations as the latter two counties. Fulton and Ottawa were excluded, as the Ohio EPA had requested.

The nonattainment designations do not prohibit industrial development or expansion but serve as a deterrent because requirements for additional pollution controls are more economically restrictive, officials have said.

They said they are not yet sure what measures Lucas, Wood, and Allen will take to comply. States have three years to submit plans for implementing the new federal regulations.

Nationally, 474 counties were found out of compliance for ground-level ozone, including 104 in the Midwest.

Ground-level ozone is one of six major pollutants regulated by the U.S. EPA under the Clean Air Act of 1970, and is the one chiefly associated with smog. Officials have said that pollutant and others cause a number of respiratory ailments.

Contact Tom Henry at:

thenry@theblade.com

or 419-724-6079.



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