A FEW MINUTES WITH … Vivian H. Aucoin

Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND --  Vivian Aucoin, environmental scientist with the Department of Environmental Quality, photographed in her office Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013.
Advocate staff photo by HEATHER MCCLELLAND -- Vivian Aucoin, environmental scientist with the Department of Environmental Quality, photographed in her office Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013.

POSITION: Environmental scientist manager, Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality.

AGE: 54.

Aucoin has more than 20 years of experience working at DEQ, with the last 13 years working on the State Implementation Plan for ozone. With a more stringent federal ozone pollution standard in effect at 75 parts per billion and more stringent standards possible in the future, the fight to reduce ozone-causing pollution across the state is getting more attention. Ozone is a pollution that forms in the atmosphere when nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds from industry, vehicles and other sources combine during hot and sunny days.

What are the changes in store for the five-parish Baton Rouge area — East and West Baton Rouge, Livingston, Iberville and Ascension parishes — in the context of new ozone regulations?

There will be no new state regulations for the Baton Rouge area. Because the area had a more stringent classification for the last standard, all of the applicable rules are already on the books. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, any new federal regulations, coupled with regulations currently on the books, will bring the five-parish area to meet the new standard of 75 ppb by the December 2015 deadline.

What impact will the change in ozone standard have for the rest of the state?

There are no other monitors (or areas) that currently don’t meet the (75 ppm) standard. Should EPA choose to strengthen the standard again, we may have new nonattainment areas.

What is DEQ doing internally to prepare for these changes in the ozone standard?

The department is conducting statewide air quality modeling at this time. The modeling results will allow the department to look at areas individually so control strategies can be specialized for where the pollution is coming from in different areas of the state. For instance, some areas get more of their ozone-causing pollution from cars, while other areas are more heavily influenced by industry.

What is DEQ doing across the state to prepare for these changes?

Many areas are participating in an EPA-sponsored program known as Ozone Advance. Some of the program’s goals include helping areas reduce emissions in order to ensure continued health protections, assisting areas to be in a better position to remain in attainment and to efficiently direct available resources to address ozone problems quickly. Areas around Louisiana, including the Baton Rouge area, have already signed up for the program to help raise awareness about ozone pollution and to work toward strategies to reduce ozone-causing emissions.

What impacts can residents of not only Baton Rouge but other areas of the state expect from the ozone standard changes? For example, will annual car inspections be required in communities outside the five-parish Baton Rouge area?

Changes for other areas would depend on how severe an area gets classified for not meeting the standard. At this time, it is difficult to forecast which areas will have to implement the inspection and maintenance requirement to the normal vehicle safety inspection. If people would like to help keep the area in attainment, they can participate on a daily basis by combining errands, bringing their lunches and avoiding long drive-thru window lines.

Advocate staff writer Amy Wold