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EPA Gives State Pollution Policy The Nod, Companies With Low Emissions Can Skip Permit

Sarah Whites-Koditschek
Stuart Spencer works in the Office of Air Quality at the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.

Air quality changes made in 2010 raised the threshold for how much air pollution a company can emit without a permit. On Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency approved those lower air quality standards. 
Chuck Buttry, a board member for the Arkansas Environmental Federation, an industry lobbying group, says the higher threshold allows companies with low pollution levels to make changes, like upgrade equipment, without a long permit process.

“You can respond to changes in market demand quicker. You can get your financing process quicker. It just speeds everything up if you don’t have to go through a six- or eight-month permitting process,” he said.
Buttry also said finalizing the rule creates security for companies that have been operating under the standards by ensuring their operations won’t be legally challenged.
Sierra Club of Arkansas chapter director Glen Hooks says lower emission standards are always going to result in more air pollution.
“What the EPA has done here is just make it easier for corporations to get around air standards and pollute more,” said Hooks.
According to Stuart Spencer, associate director of the Office of Air Quality for the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, air quality testing has shown no increase in air pollution since the changes were made.
“In those eight years, we actually saw our only county that was in non-attainment for ozone, which was Crittenden County, go back into attainment. So we were seeing improved air quality and not degraded air quality.”
The Arkansas Environmental Federation, a lobbying group for business interests, and the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) worked together to propose the changes to the EPA eight years ago.

This story is produced by Arkansas Public Media. What's that? APM is a nonprofit journalism project for all of Arkansas and a collaboration among public media in the state. We're funded in part through a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, with the support of partner stations KUAR, KUAF, KASU and KTXK. And, we hope, from you! You can learn more and support Arkansas Public Media's reporting at Arkansas Public Media is Natural State news with context.