Baton Rouge Area Ozone Designation Update

In March of this year, the Baton Rouge area was formally designated to attainment of the 2008 ozone standard by EPA.  However, Baton Rouge ozone design values for 2014-2016 showed that the area would be once again designated to nonattainment status when designations under the new 2015 standard were to be made as scheduled in October of this year.

On June 6th, EPA announced that it was extending the deadline for promulgating initial area designations by one year for the 2015 ozone NAAQS.  This provided some additional time for the area to meet the new 2015 ozone standard.  The EPA extension of the deadline for making area designations to October 2018 meant that the Baton Rouge area would remain in attainment for ozone for another year and provided additional time to achieve attainment for the new standard.

Then, on August 2nd, EPA reversed itself and announced that it was moving forward with 2015 ozone designations by October of this year.  As a consequence, The Baton Rouge area is confronted with the possibility of being designated back to nonattainment status within the next few months. 

Meanwhile, though, Baton Rouge ozone levels thus far for 2017 (through July) have been below the new 2015 standard and, if this situation continues to October 1st, a mechanism exists whereby DEQ can request that the 2015-2017 ozone data be used instead of the 2014-2016 data to determine the area’s designation status.  Although not assured, it is expected that EPA would grant such a request.  This would mean that the Baton Rouge area would remain in attainment status at least until designation status could be determined based on the 2015-2017 data (probably 2nd quarter of 2018).

As a practical matter, a rule promulgated by DEQ (LAC 33:III.504.M.), would continue to require offsetting of emissions for permitting projects in areas recently designated from nonattainment to attainment.  Administration of this rule will require that the DEQ ERC banking system continue to operate for the area as it has under nonattainment status.  Thus, the new Emission Reduction Credits strategy being employed by the Baton Rouge area to provide additional offsets for air permits would continue for the foreseeable future, no matter which designation scenario unfolds.