CHARLESTON, WV (STL.News) Gov. Jim Justice announced today that the entire state of West Virginia is now meeting all the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s health-based National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for the first time since 1978, when the EPA made their initial nonattainment designations under the 1970 Clean Air Act.
“It’s amazing what’s going on in West Virginia,” Gov. Justice said. “In the past, many people from the outside world might have assumed that we were dingy or dusty or backward in certain ways. But they couldn’t be more wrong. Really and truly, we pride ourselves on taking care of our environment – keeping our air pristine and our water beautiful.”
The Clean Air Act required the EPA to establish NAAQS for pollutants that were shown to threaten human health and the environment. Being in attainment with these standards means cleaner air and better health for citizens. The EPA sets NAAQS for six pollutants: carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particulate matter, and sulfur dioxide.
With today’s announcement, West Virginia became just the 16th state in the nation to be in attainment with all NAAQS.
“This is an incredible day in West Virginia,” Gov. Justice said. “It can’t be better in my book.”
The Governor was joined for today’s announcement by EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Cosmo Servidio and West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Austin Caperton.
“What a truly special and noteworthy occasion,” Servidio said. “This is such a significant milestone for West Virginia. It is the one state in [EPA] Region 3 – the Mid-Atlantic region – that, for the first time since 1978, has attained all air quality standards for harmful air pollutants. That is just incredible.”
“This is a momentous announcement,” Sec. Caperton said. “Our agency’s core values are professionalism, integrity, education, knowledge, expertise, credibility, and public service. Governor, I don’t think anybody exhibits these core values any more than you.
“The improvements that have been made to our state’s air quality over the years is just remarkable,” Sec. Caperton continued. “Finally reaching this milestone is an incredible accomplishment for our state, our people, and our agency.”
Alongside Gov. Justice, EPA Regional Administrator Servidio also announced two water-related grants; $24.7 million to West Virginia for water quality improvement projects to address wastewater treatment and stormwater runoff and $11 million for drinking water improvement projects throughout the state.
These water improvement grants will be supplemented with nearly $4.9 million in state matching funds for wastewater projects and $2.8 million in state matching funds for drinking water projects.
This year’s funding includes $3.7 million for upgrading the drinking water system for the City of Ronceverte by supporting the replacement of two 200,000-gallon water tanks and 2.3 miles of water lines to reduce water loss.
“It’s about collaboration, it’s about partnership, and that’s what the Trump EPA represents,” Servidio said. “It’s collaborating and working with our states, and it’s something that Administrator Wheeler highlights to all the regional administrators; working with our states to improve health and the environment.”
“I’m extremely proud of our partnership with the EPA and the successes that we’re seeing when it comes to making both our air and water quality better and better because, at the end of the day, we want to let the outside world know that West Virginia is the diamond in the rough that they may have missed, and an excellent place to raise a family and grow a business in one of the most stunning environments in America,” Gov. Justice said.
More information: NAAQS
On August 5, 2013, a portion of Marshall County, including the Clay, Franklin, and Washington Tax Districts, was designated nonattainment by the EPA for the 2010 sulfur dioxide (SO2) standard. Under the CAA, the WVDEP was required to submit a state implementation plan (SIP) that provided for attainment within five years of the designation.
On March 17, 2017, the WVDEP submitted a SIP that demonstrated how the Marshall area would attain the SO2 NAAQS.
As a result of the SIP, SO2 emissions in the Marshall area have been permanently reduced. Monitored air quality shows ambient SO2 concentrations for 2017-19 were just 8 parts per billion (ppb) – far below the NAAQS attainment requirement of 75 ppb.
On March 18, 2020, the WVDEP requested the EPA redesignate the Marshall area as attainment and submitted a maintenance plan, demonstrating the area will continue to meet the NAAQS for 10 years. The redesignation request and maintenance plan were approved by EPA on Sept. 28.
Lowering the amount of SO2 in the atmosphere is beneficial to both the environment and citizens. When combined with water and air, it becomes acid rain – which causes deforestation, is harmful to aquatic life, and corrodes buildings and paint. It can also be detrimental to human health, especially the elderly and those suffering from respiratory conditions, such as asthma.