New tool to aid ozone program

An ozone-reduction program started last year in Baton Rouge has an online component that could help residents and groups statewide with the local, state and federal effort, organizers said.

Mike McDaniel, executive director of the Baton Rouge Clean Air Coalition, said many ozone-reduction ideas have been presented over the years but every now and again he hears of something new that could work here or in other parts of Louisiana.

“The message I tell everyone is you don’t ever want to get into non-attainment for ozone,” he said.

On Wednesday, the coalition and the state Department of Environmental Quality announced a new online tool — available at www.deq.louisiana.gov — to give people a chance to comment on ozone reduction. “We’re fishing for ideas that maybe we’ve missed,” McDaniel said.

Michael Vince, a senior scientist for the DEQ, said the online tool is part of the Ozone Advance which helps areas that currently meet the federal ozone standard to continue doing so or to lower their ozone levels in preparation for upcoming standards.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency started the Ozone Advance last year.

Although the five-parish Baton Rouge area (East Baton Rouge, West Baton Rouge, Livingston, Iberville and Ascension) has been dealing with ozone pollution for years, it’s a relatively new issue for other parts of the state, Vince said. Since a new, lower standard for ozone became official at 75 parts per billion last year, many other areas of the state will likely exceed or meet the standard, he said.

The EPA will likely set out a new standard at the end of the year which could be lower, Vince said.

Ozone forms when nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds from industry, vehicles and other sources combine during hot and sunny days. On days with little wind to dissipate the ozone, it can accumulate and cause breathing and other health problems. Reducing ozone means taking steps to reduce the releases of its components, including delaying vehicle fill-ups until evening or tightening industrial regulations.

Although the Baton Rouge area is out of attainment for the 75 ppb federal standard, Vince said, the area was in attainment when it joined the EPA’s Ozone Advance program last year.

Vince said he has been meeting with regional planning organizations around the state to talk about the Ozone Advance program — most areas joined the program last year — and the consequences of not meeting the ozone standard.

The program is intended not only to get the regions organized, Vince said, but also to document their ozone-reduction work and build a network of ozone awareness and cooperation. “You want to catch every little project you can. It shows EPA you’re really trying,” he said.

In late February, DEQ will be holding a day-long workshop for the various regional groups in different regions to discuss solutions and current ozone-reduction efforts. “Each little area doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel,” Vince said.

He said there are some things such as radio awareness campaigns that the different regions can work on together to save money or standardizing reports for ease of use down the road. “I’m trying to get them connected to other resources and get cohesion with these groups,” Vince said.

Editor’s note: This article was changed on Feb. 1, 2013 to reflect the correct title for Michael Vance with the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality.