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November 17, 2017


Nebraska Declared in Attainment for Ozone Standards

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has determined that the air quality in Nebraska meets revised federal ground-level ozone standards.

Historically, all of Nebraska has been listed as either in attainment or unclassifiable for ground-level ozone, which means that Nebraska businesses and communities are not subject to more stringent air requirements that are set in place when an area is considered “non-attainment.” Non-attainment areas typically occur in more highly-populated areas, due to higher volumes of vehicle and business emissions.

This designation is of particular significance, because the ozone standards were revised by EPA in 2015, lowering the standard from 0.075 parts per million (ppm) to 0.070 ppm.

“Achieving compliance with the new 2015 ozone standard is due to concerted efforts of Nebraska’s businesses and communities, particularly in the eastern part of the state,” said NDEQ Director Jim Macy. “Recent data indicates Lincoln and the Omaha metropolitan area are safely below the new ozone standard, and we need to continue to protect air quality through these voluntary local cooperative efforts.”

Ground level or "bad" ozone is not emitted directly into the air, but is created by chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) in the presence of sunlight. Emissions from industrial facilities and electric utilities, motor vehicle exhaust, gasoline vapors, and chemical solvents are some of the major sources of NOx and VOC. Breathing ozone can trigger a variety of health problems, particularly for children, the elderly, and people of all ages who have lung diseases such as asthma. Ground level ozone can also have harmful effects on sensitive vegetation and ecosystems.

NDEQ submitted its designation recommendation of “attainment” (meaning that all locations in Nebraska are under this new .070 ppm standard) for Nebraska to EPA in September 2016. After reviewing Nebraska’s information, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt informed Gov. Pete Ricketts that the EPA is designating all of Nebraska as attainment, and those areas that do not have ozone monitors are “unclassifiable/attainment”, which means that although there is no direct data, modeling indicates that those areas also meet the revised federal standards.