Updated July 15 at 11:30 a.m.
Some parts of Indiana that have struggled with pollution are now meeting federal air quality standards. That’s according to three years of data from state and federal environmental agencies. Officials with the Environmental Protection Agency say that’s good news for people with asthma and other lung conditions.
When two coal plants in the Indianapolis area switched to natural gas, that decreased harmful sulfur dioxide in the air. That means the Indianapolis metro now meets all federal air quality standards.
So does the Muncie metro area — largely because Exide Technologies, a battery manufacturing plant, cut its lead emissions in half.
Janet McCabe directs Indiana University’s Environmental Resilience Institute and has previously worked for both the EPA's and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management's air quality branches.
“One thing you can take from it is that you can actually improve air quality in our cities and when you burn less fossil fuels, the air will get better,” she says.
Kurt Thiede is the Region 5 administrator for the EPA. He says this also means businesses in these areas will face fewer air quality restrictions.
“With the re-designations, they also help smooth the way for new infrastructure and investment and development, creating new jobs within these communities that desperately need it," he says.
Lake and Porter counties also decreased the amount of ground-level ozone in the air. The EPA says that’s because industrial companies reduced their emissions, and also because car emissions went down there and in nearby Chicago over the three years of data.
Though the EPA will consider redesignating Lake and Porter counties as meeting the 2008 federal standard for ozone, the EPA says improvements will need to be made for those counties to meet the more recent 2015 federal standard.
CLARIFICATION: A previous version of this story said Lake and Porter counties meet the 2008 federal standard for ozone. To be more clear, the EPA has proposed redesignating those counties to say they meet the standard, but it has not been finalized.
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Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.