EPA Promulgates Air Quality Designations for 2006 24-Hour Fine Particle Standards

November 19, 2009
by KATE VACCARO
MGKF News Flash

On November 13, 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") published in the Federal Register the initial air quality designations for the 2006 24-hour fine particulate matter ("PM2.5") National Ambient Air Quality Standards ("NAAQS"). These designations become effective on December 14, 2009. The 2006 PM2.5 NAAQS, which were established in October 2006, tightened the 24-hour standard from 65 micrograms per cubic meter ("µg/m3") to 35 µg/m3, but retained the annual standard of 15 µg/m3.

Several groups, including environmental groups and states and state agencies, among others, filed petitions for review in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, challenging the 2006 PM2.5 NAAQS. On February 24, 2009, finding that EPA failed to explain adequately why an annual level of 15 µg/m3 is requisite to protect the public health, the Court remanded the 2006 annual PM2.5 NAAQS to EPA for reconsideration. The Court did not, however, remand the 24-hour PM2.5 NAAQS. Therefore, these standards are in effect.

Applying the 2006 24-hour PM2.5 NAAQS, and relying on monitored air quality data for 2006-2008, EPA designated various areas of the country as being in either nonattainment, or attainment or unclassifiable, with the 2006 24-hour PM2.5 NAAQS. The following table lists the counties in our region that have been designated as being in nonattainment with the 2006 24-hour PM2.5 NAAQS.

Philadelphia Counties New Jersey Counties Delaware Counties
Bucks Burlington New Castle
Chester Camden  
Cumberland Gloucester  
Dauphin    
Delaware    
Lancaster    
Lehigh    
Lebanon    
Montgomery    
Northampton    
Philadelphia    
York    


States with areas designated as nonattainment are required to develop and submit State Implementation Plans ("SIPs") demonstrating how attainment with the 2006 24-hour PM2.5 NAAQS will be achieved. These SIPs are due no later than three years following the effective date of the designations (i.e., December 2012). Although EPA's current PM2.5 implementation regulations apply expressly only to the 1997 PM2.5 NAAQS, EPA is considering amending such regulations to encompass the 2006 PM2.5 NAAQS, as well as whether any other revisions to the regulations are necessary for these new standards.

Notwithstanding EPA's promulgation of the air quality designations for the 2006 24-hour PM2.5 NAAQS, the designations based on the 1997 annual and 24-hour PM2.5 NAAQS (15 µg/m3 and 65 µg/m3, respectively) remain in effect, and areas designated as nonattainment for these standards remain obligated to comply with the statutory and regulatory requirements applicable to such areas.

For more information on this article, please contact Kate Vaccaro at (484) 430-2329 or kvaccaro@mgkflaw.com.