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Valley air quality could be reclassified from ‘serious’ to ‘extreme’

Valley air quality could be reclassified from ‘serious’ to ‘extreme’

A Central Valley High student walks by the campus' flag poles with the orange "unhealthy" air day flag flying.


POSTED August 21, 2009 9:35 p.m.
On Friday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed to grant the state of California’s request to reclassify four areas due to the 1997 8-hour ozone air quality standard. The San Joaquin Valley area will be reclassified from serious to extreme; the South Coast area from severe to extreme; and both Coachella Valley and Sacramento Metro areas from serious to severe. Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA is required to grant a state’s request to reclassify an ozone nonattainment area.
If finalized, the reclassifications will require the state to incorporate more stringent requirements, such as lower permitting thresholds and implementing reasonably available control technologies at more sources. It will also give the state more time to meet the federal ozone standard.
The EPA is also proposing a schedule for the state to submit revisions to its clean air plan that show how the area will meet the additional requirements resulting from the reclassifications. The EPA will continue to work with the state and tribes to address the federal Clean Air Act requirements.
Ozone is a gas that occurs naturally in the upper atmosphere to protect earth from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays. At ground level, ozone is created by a chemical reaction involving sunlight and pollutants such as car exhaust, oil and gas vapors, and paint and hairspray fumes. Ozone pollution at ground level aggravates respiratory illnesses such as asthma, bronchitis and emphysema. Healthy people who are active outdoors on high ozone days may experience coughing, nasal congestion and itchy eyes.
The EPA is encouraging the public to comment during a 30-day comment period that will be identified once the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register.  A copy of the proposed rulemaking will soon be available on the EPA Pacific Southwest region’s Web site at: http://www.epa.gov/region09/air/actions/ca.html.

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