Kentucky Presses EPA to Recognize Significant Air Quality Improvements in Northern Kentucky

On March 10, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notified the Energy and Environment Cabinet of its “finding of failure to submit” a state implementation plan to address the primary 2010 SO2 National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for the Northern Kentucky and Louisville areas.

Missing from the EPA’s notification was the fact that Northern Kentucky is meeting the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for sulfur dioxide, and has been for the past two years.

The EPA notification was due, in part, of its failure to perform a timely review of air quality data in Northern Kentucky submitted by the cabinet last year that demonstrated conclusively that Campbell County is meeting the air standards.

Jefferson County is also named in EPA’s finding, and the area is currently designated by the EPA as nonattainment for the 1-hr SO2 NAAQS. Compliance is based on a three-year average of ambient air monitoring data.  However, the most recent 2015 data shows that the air quality is within EPA standards and meets the 1-hr SO2 NAAQS.  The highest reading measured in 2015 in the Louisville area is 56 parts per billion (ppb), well below the 75 ppb standard.

It was almost a year ago, on March 31, 2015, that Kentucky’s Energy and Environment Cabinet submitted a request to the EPA for a “clean data determination” for the Campbell County nonattainment area.  States have the option to request a clean data determination if recent data shows an area has returned to compliance.  If approved, a clean data determination relieves the obligation to comply with certain planning requirements.

The Cabinet’s request was based on two factors:

  • The monitor located in Campbell County was, and still is attaining the standard.  The most recent 3 years of certified monitoring data (2012-2014) demonstrate that the area is below the 2010 1-hour SO2 NAAQS, which is 75 parts per billion (ppb) and has been since 2014.
  • EPA concluded that Duke Energy Walter C. Beckjord Facility is the primary source of SO2 emissions in the area.  In its request, Kentucky informed EPA that the Beckjord facility ceased operations on October 1, 2014.  Although the Cabinet submitted its clean data determination request nearly a year ago, EPA has still not taken action on the request.

Had EPA acted on the Cabinet’s request, it would have suspended the requirement for an attainment demonstration to be submitted by the April 6, 2015 deadline.

Once an area has been demonstrated to be meeting the NAAQS for a particular pollutant, states may request the area to be redesignated as in attainment.  The Cabinet submitted a redesignation request to the EPA for the Campbell County area on February 22, 2016.

The Energy and Environment Cabinet will continue working with EPA to resolve this issue that demonstrates that the Campbell County area should not be part of the EPA finding of failure action to submit.  Importantly, Campbell County has continued to attain the standard consistent with Kentucky’s submitted redesignation request.

Recent Air Quality Improvements in Jefferson County

While the most recent 2015 data shows that the air quality in Jefferson County is within EPA standards, the Energy and Environment Cabinet will continue to work with the Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control District to bring the area into compliance with the three-year average for attainment of the SO2 NAAQS.

The significant improvement of air quality in the Louisville area results from additional air pollution controls installed at the LG&E Mill Creek facility. To bring the area into compliance with the 1-hour SO2 NAAQS, LG&E invested approximately $940 million to construct and operate the necessary air pollution controls.   Using current ambient air monitoring data, it is projected that the area will meet the three-year average for attainment of the SO2 NAAQS by Dec. 31, 2017.