INDIANAPOLIS | The commissioner of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management is reaching out to Hoosier members of Congress trying to overturn a ruling that Northwest Indiana's air quality does not meet federal standards.
Thomas Easterly told a panel of state lawmakers Wednesday there's a slim chance U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville, or U.S. Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., can persuade the Environmental Protection Agency to change its rating of the region's air quality, but it's worth a shot.
"This is a travesty and we're trying everything we can to get it overturned," Easterly said.
On May 31, the EPA ruled Lake and Porter counties were not in attainment with federal ozone standards because an ozone monitor on the Illinois-Wisconsin border exceeded the limit by 0.0004 parts per million.
Air quality in Northwest Indiana never breached the ozone limit but the region is considered part of Chicago for environmental designations. In 2005, the EPA denied a request by Gov. Mitch Daniels that it evaluate the region's environment separate from Chicago.
Easterly said it's "really frustrating" the EPA did not also strip attainment status from Milwaukee, even though data show that city contributed more ozone to the monitor that exceeded the limit than Northwest Indiana did.
Northwest Indiana air quality first met federal standards in 2008 after more than 30 years of monitoring. Nonattainment forces businesses locating in the region to meet stricter environmental standards.
Easterly said vehicle emissions testing also will have to continue to ensure the region's ozone levels remain below federal standards.