WASHINGTON (AP) — Twenty-five Michigan counties fail to
meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s new limits
for smog and will have to take measures to reduce pollution, the
EPA announced yesterday

No Michigan counties were on the EPA’s list of areas with
the most extreme smog. The EPA identified 474 counties nationwide
that aren’t meeting the new standards.

But eight southeast Michigan counties —Wayne, Oakland,
Macomb, Livingston, Lenawee, Monroe, St. Clair and Washtenaw
— will have mandatory vehicle emissions inspections under the
new rules, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Director
Steven Chester said.

“I don’t know what other avenues we have, but I can
guarantee you we’re going to continue to argue for more
flexibility,” Chester said yesterday. Chester said the
vehicle inspections wouldn’t start for several years.

Chester said the DEQ had asked to have Lenawee given a separate
designation, since it isn’t creating enough pollution to
affect surrounding counties. But the EPA refused.

The EPA requires Michigan to submit plans for meeting the
standards by 2007, and most Michigan counties will have until 2009
to meet the standards. The eight southeast Michigan counties and
two counties in western Michigan — Cass and Muskegon —
have until 2010 to meet the standards.

The standards allow less ozone in the air and require more hours
of sampling.

Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-Grand Rapids), said west Michigan counties
won’t have to require emissions tests for vehicles but may
have to impose stricter emissions requirements for factories and
power plants. He said he was encouraged by the EPA’s
action.

“The administration … developed a plan that will
help us to clean the air in our area without imposing unworkable
burdens on our community,” Ehlers said.

Michigan lawmakers, including Gov. Jennifer Granholm, had been
asking EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt to give western Michigan
counties up to 10 years to meet the standards. They said western
Michigan is being unfairly targeted for pollution coming from
Chicago and Milwaukee.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said yesterday that western Michigan
counties fared better than counties that will have to meet the
standards by 2007. But he expressed disappointment that the
counties weren’t given more time.

“Continuing to place restrictions on areas that are
impacted by overwhelming transport of pollution from other areas,
in our case from outside of Michigan, is not only unreasonable and
unfair, but is not consistent with the purpose of the Clean Air
Act,” Levin said in a news release.

But Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Holland) said the EPA acted with
“the greatest amount of flexibility … under existing
law.” Hoekstra noted that an energy bill that hasn’t yet
passed Congress would delay requirements for western Michigan until
the completion of a pollution study.

The new ozone standards were crafted by the Bush EPA after being
initiated under the Clinton administration. They are intended to
reduce smog from ozone produced by paint and gasoline vapors
combining at ground levels with nitrogen oxides from fossil
fuels.

The standards were delayed from taking effect for four years
because of failed court challenges by business groups and by
several states, including Michigan. The Supreme Court upheld the
standards in February 2001.

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