Gov. Mitch Daniels and Attorney General Greg Zoeller announced Thursday the state's intention to sue the Environmental Protection Agency in an effort to have Lake and Porter counties returned to Clean Air Act compliance for ozone.
"Indiana's air is cleaner than it's ever been in modern times," Daniels said in a statement. "Every county in the state meets air quality limit for the first time in the history of the Clean Air Act, yet we're about to be punished by the EPA because Illinois' air doesn't.
"EPA's restrictions make it harder to hire people and we don't want to lose jobs in Indiana, where the air is clean, because the air isn't clean enough in Illinois."
Indiana is placing the blame on Illinois due to the EPA's designation of ozone attainment by metropolitan areas that cross state lines. Lake and Porter counties are included with Cook County and Kenosha County in Wisconsin in the Chicago metropolitan area's monitoring zone.
Earlier this year, the EPA reported one monitor in Zion, Ill. exceeded the ozone standard by less than 1 percent, sending the entire metropolitan region -- including Lake and Porter counties -- into nonattainment status.
Zoeller said the state filed a petition in federal appeals court Thursday seeking a review of the EPA's decision regarding the ozone compliance in Lake and Porter counties.
As of today, the counties included will no longer be listed by the EPA as meeting the Clean Air Act standard for ozone.
Zoeller said arbitrarily including Lake and Porter counties with the nonattainment status of Chicago puts the counties at a disadvantage and wouldn't help to improve air quality in Northwest Indiana.
"No one has claimed that our air quality is not sufficient in these two counties," Zoeller said. "It's really a question of the neighboring state of Illinois and the city of Chicago that puts us in the nonattainment standard."
He said the state will ask a federal appeals court next week to stay the EPA action "before the burdensome new nonattainment permit requirements force local companies to move their expansion projects elsewhere due to cost."
A noncompliance label means businesses must take action to reduce ozone produced by their operations. It also forces the state to take other actions to try to limit ozone emissions, like monitoring vehicle exhaust at Clean Air Car Check stations.
Zoeller said he has talked with several Northwest Indiana mayors, "and each are very concerned about this."
He said the state also will file a petition he hopes could lead EPA officials to reconsider how they categorize Lake and Porter counties as part of the Chicago region.
"That will probably take place later this year," Zoeller said.
Times Staff Writer Chas Reilly contributed to this report.