Ohio must blaze trail on EPA standards

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Tribune editorial staff

Last week, the United States Environmental Protection Agency put Ohio first - first in a dubious category.

The EPA identified 225 counties in 20 states that failed to meet new environmental quality standards.

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Among those states, Ohio had more counties in non-compliance than any of the other 19 states cited.

The "honor" is not exactly one in which the state takes great pride. Lawrence County was among the 32 Ohio counties on the list.

We've argued - along with a number of local leaders - that Lawrence County is on the list unfairly.

Despite records that show the county's air quality has improved significantly in recent years, the EPA took a long-range average to declare non-attainment.

The poor air quality designation means that the state of Ohio must develop a plan for cleaning up the air quality in the affected counties within three years. The standards must be implemented by 2010.

Failure to comply might force counties to limit development and possibly forfeit federal highway dollars.

Either prospect could be harmful for Lawrence County.

Ohio EPA officials have begun working on their plan to remedy the situation throughout the state. Among the things the agency might include are limiting emissions from power plants, car exhaust, diesel trucks and wood-burning stoves, just to name a few.

Exactly how the state and the county will confront the non-attainment status is not yet known. One thing that is certain, however, is that confronting the situation is nothing to take lightly.

In addition to reducing airborne pollutant health risk and improving the quality of life, the new regulations are forcing industrial areas of Ohio to quickly progress into a cleaner future.

In that way, the regulations are a good way to get us where we need to be, but the road ahead may be bumpy and uncharted. And no one wants to be the first down that kind of road.