Regulation and Air Quality and Energy & Environment and Environment and Environmental Policy

New EPA rules could trigger Indiana emission testing

April 15, 2011

Drivers across Indiana could be required to have their vehicles undergo emissions testing if new federal Environmental Protection Agency rules set for release this summer are strict enough, a state environmental official said.

Keith Baugues, the assistant commissioner for air quality for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, said the statewide testing might be required if the EPA adopts the strictest new rules being considered for harmful air pollutants, such as ozone, The Times of Munster reported Friday.

The EPA announced in December it was delaying the new rules, drawing criticism from environmental groups.

IDEM spokesman Rob Elstro told The Associated Press on Friday that scenario was a "very outside possibility" and said there is a wide range of possible remedies, depending on how strict the EPA standards are.

He said emissions testing would more likely be considered on a county-by-county basis or in metropolitan areas. He said other possibilities could be tighter emissions for businesses and industries and initiatives to increase carpooling and use of public transportation.

"We tailor the regulations to specific areas, so what works for Indianapolis may not work for Elkhart," Elstro said.

Two counties are watching closely to see what the EPA decides.

Lake and Porter counties have not met air-quality standards for ozone for years and are the only counties in the state that currently require vehicle emissions checks.

Monitors last year showed both counties were below the standard for ozone, and IDEM has asked the EPA to redesignate the counties as attainment zones.

That process is under way, but if the new standards fall lower than the current emissions levels in those counties, both will remain in the nonattainment zone.

Baugues said the entire state could fall to nonattainment for ozone if the EPA chooses the strictest rules.

"We hope if anything the ozone standard would be at the top of that range rather than the bottom of the range," Baugues said.

Baugues says the EPA's decision will have a significant impact on business and the economy.

"That's really what's going to be driving our industry over the next couple of years, all these new standards and how we react to them," he said.

Nicole Kamins, executive director of Save the Dunes, said Baugues missed the point.

"While Save the Dunes understands the complexities and challenges businesses have in adhering to reduced air emissions levels set by U.S. EPA, the standards should be driven by public health as the primary consideration," Kamins said. "For example, if U.S. EPA lowers the ozone emissions level, there will be great benefits to the respiratory health of residents, particularly the elderly and children."

Brian Urbaszewski, director of environmental health programs with the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago, said he found it "extremely surprising and extremely disappointing" that health issues were not brought up by Baugues.

Elstro said Baugues didn't talk about health issues because he wasn't asked. He said Baugues said at the beginning of his talk that EPA sets the standards and uses health studies to set those.

"We are concerned about making sure we protect human health and we do that using these standards," Elstro said.

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