INDIANAPOLIS | A dispute over Northwest Indiana's air quality may become grounds for a lawsuit between the state's environmental department and the federal government.
On May 31, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concluded ozone from Lake and Porter counties contributed to a violation of National Ambient Air Quality Standards in Lake County, Illinois.
The finding dropped the two Indiana counties into "non-attainment" status, which requires that Indiana submit an air quality improvement plan to the U.S. EPA and forces businesses moving to the region to meet stricter environmental permitting requirements.
Indiana Department of Environmental Management's spokesman said Wednesday his agency believes it's unfair Northwest Indiana is lumped with Chicago for federal air quality measurements when ozone levels in Lake and Porter counties meet federal criteria and are among the lowest in the state.
"IDEM is considering filing some sort of legal action based on the designation for Northwest Indiana," spokesman Rob Elstro said. "However, no decision has been made."
The Chicago area, including Northwest Indiana, met federal ozone standards for the first time in 2008 after 30 years of non-attainment.
Lake and Porter counties actually met ozone standards earlier, but the EPA denied a 2005 request by Gov. Mitch Daniels to separate Northwest Indiana's attainment status from the Chicago area.
The new non-attainment designation will allow Illinois to receive up to $100 million in federal funds to reduce traffic congestion.