McDaniel: Stricter ozone standards could put all of La. out of compliance with pollution standards

Stringent new ozone standards expected next year could put most, if not all, of the state out of compliance with federal ozone pollution standards, said Mike McDaniel, executive director of the Baton Rouge Clean Air Coalition, to the Capital Region Planning Commission on Monday night.

The five-parish area around Baton Rouge — East Baton Rouge, West Baton Rouge, Ascension, Iberville and Livingston parishes — has struggled for years to meet a federal ozone standard that has been made more stringent and difficult to attain.

Although there has been significant progress in improving air quality over the years, it’s likely there could be a new target if the Environmental Protection Agency, as expected, lowers the ozone standard to somewhere between 60 and 70 parts per billion, he said.

“If it’s set at 70 ppb, we’ll have about half of the air monitors in the state out of attainment,” McDaniel said.

If the ozone standard is lowered to 65 ppb, that would put all metropolitan areas except for Monroe out of attainment for ozone, and if the standard drops to 60 ppb, that would take Monroe out of attainment as well, he said.

Even with the Baton Rouge area meeting the federal ozone standard, that won’t change any of the measures put in place to meet previous standards, such as the requirement for yearly vehicle inspections.

The Clean Air Act doesn’t allow required pollution control measures to be taken away once they’ve been adopted.

Ozone pollution isn’t released, but instead forms in the air when nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons from industrial activities, car exhausts and other sources combine on hot, sunny days.

When there is little wind to disperse the ozone, the pollution can accumulate to levels that can be unhealthful, especially for vulnerable populations such as children or people with existing health problems.

The Capital Region Planning Commission covers an 11-parish area: East Baton Rouge, Ascension, East Feliciana, Iberville, Livingston, Pointe Coupee, St. Helena, Tangipahoa, Washington, West Baton Rouge and West Feliciana.

The group works to coordinate solutions to regional problems such as air quality, gives technical assistance to smaller parishes and cities in the area, and conducts regional planning with an emphasis on transportation.

The commission is working with Louisiana Clean Fuels and the Baton Rouge Clean Air Coalition to participate in EPA’s Ozone Advance Program, which helps states and local governments take action to meet or maintain standards for ozone and fine particulate matter in the air.

McDaniel said there will be challenges to meeting a more-stringent ozone pollution standard, including a declining sense of urgency about the issue locally and the billions of dollars in industrial investments expected to expand production and add thousands of new workers.

“That’s great for jobs,” McDaniel said, but that investment will also bring more air emissions from cars and industry that will have to be accounted for.