December 17, 2004

EPA Fails to Protect Mon County: New studies show health effects for air pollution, but EPA Refuses to Act

MORGANTOWN, WV - Citizens for Alternatives to Longview Power (CALP), a Morgantown-based group devoted to cleaner air in the region, voiced disappointment that the EPA failed to uphold its recent designation of all of Monongalia County as a Nonattainment Area for fine particulate matter in the air (PM2.5). On June 29, 2004, the EPA proposed to designate Monongalia County as a Nonattainment Area for PM2.5. The three-year average of PM2.5 readings is 14.9 micrograms/m3, barely below the national air quality standard of 15.0 micrograms/m3. The designation of nonattainment was made, in part, because Marion County’s average PM2.5 level is in violation of the national air quality standard. The Clean Air Act requires that areas violating the standard and adjoining areas that contribute significantly to nonattainment must be included in the Nonattainment Area designation. "It is unfortunate that the EPA chose to bend the rules in response to pressure from the WV Department of Environmental Protection and some local interests," said Jim Kotcon of the West Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Instead of sticking with the initial designation of the whole of Mon County, they drew a line right around the main sources—the Fort Martin power plant and the site of the proposed Longview power plant—without going through Morgantown. Apparently, they want to minimize the real effect of the designation. This will condemn the already polluted area around the plants to permanent "pollution ghetto" status, and reduce the pressure to solve the problems.

Paula Hunt, a member of CALP, expressed concern that, without federal regulation of the whole county, the air quality in Monongalia County will continue to get worse. High particulate levels can trigger asthma attacks and worsen the symptoms of other lung diseases. Recently, the American Heart Association declared particulate pollution a risk factor for the development of cardiovascular disease. The EPA itself has estimated that implementing its PM2.5 standards would save over 15,000 lives each year, especially among the elderly and people with heart and lung diseases. Since our state has the third highest rate of asthma and the fourth highest rate of death from cardiovascular disease in the nation, particulate pollution is a major concern to people here," said Karen Woodfork. According to Bill Wonderlin, "I am disappointed that the EPA is not requiring our political and economic development leadership to act responsibly. Their current policy of allowing our burden of pollution to continue to increase as we grow is bad economic policy because it is not sustainable growth, and it will come back to haunt us in the future."