DESOTO COUNTY — DeSoto County has formally objected to the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to list it as “nonattainment” on ozone levels.
The Commercial Appeal DeSoto County officials also want the EPA to abandon a “misguided” proposal to list the county with Memphis as falling short on ozone standards.
DeSoto County officials and members of the Mississippi congressional delegation have visited with the EPA in Washington.
In December, EPA announced a proposal to include parts of DeSoto with Memphis, which has ozone emissions above allowable limits set by federal regulation. The plan would include urban areas of DeSoto County and Crittenden County, Ark., in the Memphis ozone “non-attainment” area.
DeSoto was excluded in 2004 because the county did not significantly contribute to ozone levels in the Memphis area. Since that time, ozone concentrations have dropped in DeSoto County, say state air quality officials.
Ozone non-attainment could impair industrial recruitment by requiring prospective firms to install enhanced emission controls and would add regulatory burdens to transportation projects in the growing county, say local officials.
“This plan is problematic not only on an environmental basis, but also on the grounds that it fails to give adequate consideration to the economic impact on this area of Mississippi,” U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran said Wednesday.
DeSoto County Supervisor Mark Gardner said the county has made its case and “now we’ll see where this goes.”
Cochran, Sen. Roger Wicker and U.S. Rep. Alan Nunnelee, all Republicans, are supporting DeSoto County’s efforts.
“DeSoto County has gone above and beyond what is required by EPA to lower their ozone emissions,” Wicker said. “Emissions have remained below the level set by the law. Holding the county accountable for a violation they have not committed would hurt job opportunities in Mississippi.”
Nunnelee said it would be “wrong and counterproductive to punish their good-faith efforts.”
“We felt we armed them with the ammunition they needed to fight this fight,” Gardner said.
State and county officials have until Feb. 29 to submit additional data to support their position. EPA plans to complete its proposal by May 31.