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Air Quality

SC's Early Action Plan for the 8-hour Ozone Standard

South Carolina EAC History

On July 18, 1997, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revised the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ground-level ozone from 0.12 parts per million (ppm) 1-hour "peak" standard to 0.08 ppm 8-hour "average" standard. This new standard is commonly referred to as the 1997 8-hour ozone standard. Using data from each state's ozone monitoring network and recommendations from the respective states, EPA determines if geographic areas of the state are attainment (meet the standard) or nonattainment (exceed the standard).

In the fall of 2002, EPA approved an option for areas meeting the 1-hour ozone standard, like those in South Carolina, to attain the 8-hour ozone standard by December 31, 2007, and obtain cleaner air sooner than federally mandated. This option, commonly referred to as the Early Action Process, requires an expeditious time line for achieving emissions reductions sooner than required under the 1997 8-hour ozone implementation rule, while providing "fail-safe" provisions for the area to revert to the traditional SIP process if specific milestones are not met.

Forty-five counties in South Carolina along with DHEC and EPA Region 4, signed Early Action Compacts (EAC) in December 2002. By signing the EAC, EPA agreed to defer the effective date of the nonattainment designation for participating areas as long as all terms and conditions of the EAC were met.

DHEC worked with EPA, state and local governments, industry, environmental groups, and other interested parties to develop a strategy to reduce the pollution that creates ground-level ozone. The most important reasons for moving forward in this proactive manner are the public health benefits realized by meeting the new standard sooner than required and also deferring the effective date of the nonattainment designation. In March 2004, participating EAC areas in South Carolina, submitted local Early Action Plans to include emission reduction strategies.

On April 15, 2004, the EPA publicized nonattainment areas and respective classifications for ozone. They were based on the severity of the ozone problem in each state. Three areas in South Carolina were listed as not meeting the 1997 8-hour ozone standard. Although one of the areas designated (partial York County) was not allowed to continue participation in the EAC process (due to proximity with Charlotte, NC) the other two areas were designated nonattainment with the effective date deferred. In December 2004, South Carolina submitted the EAC State Implementation Plan.

In December 2007, South Carolina provided EPA with documentation demonstrating that local stakeholders, when given the flexibility to implement programs geared toward reducing oxides of nitrogen emissions do have an impact on reducing the formation of ozone. In April 2008, based on ambient air monitoring data for 2005, 2006, and 2007, the areas in South Carolina designated as nonattainment for the 1997 8-hour ozone standard with the effective date deferred were redesignated to attainment. Each of the diverse stakeholders joined forces to provide cleaner air sooner to the citizens of South Carolina to achieve this worthwhile, common goal.

Related Documents


Questions about the Early Action Plan?  Please contact Nelson Roberts by phone at (803)898-4122 or by email.