Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties may be removed from the list.
By JEFF ORTEGA
COLUMBUS -- One environmental group says it will be monitoring the state EPA's attempts to ask federal environmental regulators to remove five Ohio counties from a national list of places that don't meet new clean-air standards.
& quot;We will be keeping track of this, & quot; Staci Putney McLennan of the Ohio Environmental Council said Monday.
& quot;Right now we haven't seen evidence that taking the five counties off the list would protect the public health, & quot; said Putney McLennan, the OEC's clean air and energy program director.
The OEC is a private, statewide environmental group. Its officials say it has about 3,000 members.
The state EPA plans to ask the federal government to remove Lucas and Wood counties in northwest Ohio, and Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties in Northeast Ohio from the list, said Linda Oros, a spokeswoman for the Ohio EPA.
Date review sought
The state EPA believes that a review of 2004 air data will show that those counties meet the federal standards, Oros said.
Oros said the state EPA is developing its letter requesting the counties be removed from the list.
According to news reports, the U.S. EPA last month identified more than 200 counties in at least 20 states that don't meet new clean-air standards regarding microscopic soot.
The pollutants come from sources such as power plants, car exhaust, diesel-burning trucks and other sources.
Oros said the state has three years to submit a plan to the federal government for the affected Ohio counties to meet federal standards by 2010.
Fund cuts possible
Failure to comply could mean affected counties could face sanctions such as a loss of federal highway money, Oros said. If the five counties area taken off the list, they wouldn't run the risk of losing the federal aid.
Oros said the state agency will be working on improving emissions.
& quot;We'll put together a plan on what the best ways are to get emissions improvement, & quot; said Oros.
Potential improvements the state agency could propose could include more controls on sources, Oros said.
U.S. EPA officials couldn't immediately be reached to comment.
Some environmentalists say that particulate emissions have been linked to problems such as asthma attacks and even lung cancer.