- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 9, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Not much will change for the five-parish Baton Rouge area if a proposed new, tougher ozone standard announced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in late November is adopted.

The EPA proposed a new rule that would lower the ozone standard from 75 parts per billion to between 65 ppb and 70 ppb.

The Advocate reports (https://bit.ly/1ufr367 ) industry and residents of East Baton Rouge, West Baton Rouge, Ascension, Iberville and Livingston parishes have been living with ozone-related regulations for decades. The area came into compliance with the latest ozone standard late last year.

One possible change is that the five-parish area may be expanded because the census bureau has changed what constitutes the Metropolitan Statistical Area for Baton Rouge, said Vivian Aucoin, senior scientist with the state Department of Environmental Quality air permits division.

In 2013, the U.S. Census Bureau increased the Baton Rouge MSA to also include Pointe Coupee, West Feliciana, East Feliciana and St. Helena parishes, and it’s unclear if these four parishes will be included in Baton Rouge’s ozone declaration, she said.

The decision of whether to add the four parishes to the five in the MSA likely won’t be known until EPA publishes a final rule, Aucoin said. If included, it would mean the four will have a more complex and expensive permitting process for industry and a more complicated process to qualify for federal transportation funding - just as Baton Rouge has to do now.

In addition, construction projects like a new community center built with federal funds would require an analysis of pollution caused by the construction and the added traffic the center would create to make sure they don’t add to the ozone problem.

Opponents, such as Gov. Bobby Jindal and U.S. Rep. and newly elected U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., say lowering the standard during a time of economic recovery will cost jobs and economic development while bringing minimal returns.

Supporters, such as the American Lung Association and the Natural Resources Defense Council, applaud the proposed lower standard as being a benefit to the health of the public.

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Information from: The Advocate, https://theadvocate.com

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