Press Release | June 23, 2009

SELC lauds action by Kaine Administration to improve Virginia’s air quality

Va Governor Kaine looks on as SELC Senior Attorney Frank Rambo speaks at the governor's press conference.

As part of his ongoing Renew Virginia environmental initiative, Gov. Tim Kaine today announced that the Department of Environmental Quality is beginning a systematic review of certain industrial facilities built  decades ago that may be contributing to violations of health-based air quality standards in dozens of Virginia counties, towns and cities. 

The Governor made the announcement at Dominion Virginia Power's Chesterfield Power Station, one of the three facilities identified by the DEQ to undergo this review process first, along with American Electric Power's coal-fired power plant in Glen Lyn, Giles County, and the MeadWestvaco paper mill in Covington, Alleghany County.  The DEQ said it plans to conduct the same review for other, so-called “grandfathered” sources in the future. 

The federal government sets “national ambient-air quality standards” for several air pollutants, including ozone and soot, or particulate matter. Both of these pollutants are linked to health risks, including lung disease and heart disease; children and the elderly are especially vulnerable. The federal government also designates areas that fail to meet the standards.  Once designated as an ozone or particulate matter “nonattainment” area, those areas and the state must meet certain deadlines and measures for cleaning up the air.

The Northern Virginia area is currently designated as nonattainment for both pollutants. Under the Environmental Protection Agency's new ozone standards last year, and based on the state's own recommendations, the Fredericksburg, Richmond and Hampton Roads areas will be designated in nonattainment for ozone.

Following is a statement from SELC Senior Attorney Frank Rambo:

“States have an ongoing obligation under the Clean Air Act to require cuts in emissions that contribute to unhealthy, unlawful levels of air pollution in our communities. We are greatly encouraged by Governor Kaine's leadership in taking this important and promising first step of identifying some of the top sources of those emissions. It's critical that the process be rigorous, and that compliance with the standards is enforced fully, no matter who resides in the governor's mansion.”

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