Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality
Winter 2010

EPA Proposes Stricter Ozone Standard

On January 19, 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed new standards for ground-level ozone, which is commonly referred to as smog.

EPA is proposing to set the primary standard, which protects public health, at a level between 0.060 and 0.070 parts per million (ppm) measured over eight hours. The standard was revised to 0.075 ppm in March 2008, but EPA subsequently announced that the standards were being reconsidered.

Ground-level ozone forms when emissions from industrial facilities, power plants, landfills and motor vehicles react in the sun. Children are at the greatest risk from ozone, because their lungs are still developing, they are most likely to be active outdoors, and they are more likely than adults to have asthma. Adults with asthma or other lung diseases and older adults are also sensitive to ozone.

The area in Nebraska that could be directly impacted by the proposed new standards is the Omaha metropolitan area. The potentially affected area includes several counties in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa. In anticipation of these proposed standard changes, NDEQ has been in discussion with other agencies that are involved with air quality in the Omaha area, including the City of Omaha, the Metropolitan Area Planning Agency, and the State of Iowa. Now that the range of standards has been proposed, more discussions will take place and other interested parties will be invited to become involved in the discussions.

Shelley Schneider, NDEQ Air Division Administrator, said the purpose of these meetings is to: 1) further define the activities in the area that may contribute to increased ozone levels; and 2) to determine what types of voluntary measures can be taken to reduce ozone emissions to avoid exceeding new ozone standards.

Schneider said it would be to the area’s benefit if they could cooperatively find methods to avoid exceeding new standards in the future. If the air standards are exceeded and it is determined that the area is in “non-attainment,” then there are considerably more regulatory requirements that would need to be followed. Therefore, a preventative, voluntary approach is being pursued now in an effort to avoid greater regulatory oversight in the future, she said.

EPA will accept public comments through March 22, 2010. For more information, go to:

Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality
1200 "N" Street, Suite 400
P.O. Box 98922
Lincoln, Nebraska 68509
(402) 471-2186