Incomplete monitoring data could slow regulatory responseb
y JOEL BERG
Legal battles aren’t the only roadblock to enforcing clean-air standards. Bad data is another.
In 1999, states began a three-year effort to measure the amount of fine soot in the atmosphere. Regulators installed more than 1,000 monitors around the country, including in Central Pennsylvania.
Initial equipment problems and personnel shortages have regulators debating whether to junk incomplete data from that startup year.
Collection efforts have improved. But, the early problems could delay decisions on which counties had too much fine soot and thus must begin efforts to limit emissions.
States were supposed to use measurements from 1999 through 2001 to make those determinations.
“It’s been very frustrating for us because we had hoped to see this program get off to a quick start,” said Deborah Shprentz, a consultant to the American Lung Association who has pored over the state data. Fine soot irritates people with asthma and other respiratory diseases.
Environmentalists worried that the lack of data would hinder the cleanup.
“If the data are insufficient, you don’t know where you’ll put controls,” said Janice Nolen, director of national policy for the lung association, based in Washington, D.C.
She said that pro-industry groups could challenge the legality of any rules based on incomplete data.
Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon and York counties are expected to violate the fine-soot standards, said Joyce Epps, air quality director for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Designations may come in 2004, she added.
Pennsylvania hasn’t made a decision on whether it will use incomplete data from 1999 or other years, said Mike Zuvich, chief of the DEP’s air-quality monitoring division.