Unlike Atlanta, Augusta now complies with federal clean air standards.
But EPA's proposed new rules that concern Atlanta also concern Augustans, whose communities would fall from compliance with the U.S. Clean Air Act.
Some people, including U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood of Columbia County, believe stricter regulations are unnecessary, especially for Augusta.
"Before we start changing these standards, we need to know it will do some good. And right now, we don't know that," said John Stone, Dr. Norwood's press secretary.
Dr. Norwood sued EPA last year, winning a settlement with the Justice Department over EPA's failure to comply with a law requiring a cost benefit analysis of the Clean Air Act be given to Congress every two years.
"It was first due in 1991 and none was ever submitted," Mr. Stone said. "They've never filed a report, and now they're proposing new rules when they've never even complied with the old rules."
Mr. Stone said the proposed changes would impact smaller counties outside Augusta and cause unnecessary problems for area citizens.
"Do we want Calhoun Expressway and River Watch Parkway to become like Washington D.C., where are highways are HOV (high occupant vehicle) only?" he asked. "If they can prove this is necessary, using sound science, we definitely need to do something about it," he said. "But they don't have proof, they have only speculation."
In addition to Augusta, counties like Burke, Columbia and McDuffie would be in violation the rules involving particulate in the air, he said.
Even Washington County's tiny community of Sandersville, where major kaolin industries are headquartered, would fail compliance simply because of dust, he said.
"The kaolin industry is a huge employer for that area," Mr. Stone said. "Do we want to tie them up with more regulations?"
The difference is the way ozone and particulate would be measured. Current measurements are calculated on an hourly basis. Under EPA's proposed changes, eight-hour averages would be used.
An analysis of Augusta's ozone levels over the past three years shows that - under EPA's proposed new standards - Augusta would fail air standards, said Rafael Ballagas of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.
Although the proposed changes concern Augusta's industrial community, the major impacts are likely to be upon citizens - not companies, said Pam Tucker of the Augusta-Richmond County Emergency Management Agency.
"We are in discussions now, and I mean mostly informal, with the chemical industries about how all this may or may not affect them," she said. "So far, it appears the non-attainment status will impact the average citizen a lot more than the big industries."
For example, Augusta's non-compliance could require citizens to have automobiles inspected for pollution control devices. Currently, there are no such requirements.
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