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Fayette County to challenge EPA ruling

Fayette County will spend at least $15,000 in an effort to avoid strict environmental regulations due to air quality.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Division wants to include Fayette County as one of 18 counties in the metro Atlanta area that are not meeting air quality standards due to poor air quality.

But several factors are working in Fayette’s favor to make a case that it shouldn’t be tagged for having poor air quality, Fayette County Commissioners were told Thursday night.

Allen Barnes of Joe Tanner and Associates said that other counties with data similar to Fayette County managed to avoid the “non attainment” label for air quality.

What is working in Fayette County’s favor is that there are no air quality monitors here, Barnes said. That means there is no direct proof of poor air quality readings.

One of the factors that the EPA considers is emissions not just from manufacturing facilities but also from automobiles, Barnes said. EPA also looks at vehicle miles traveled, population density, weather patterns and geographic and topographic issues, he added.

Hurting Fayette is its proximity to other counties that are documented as having poor air quality, Barnes noted.

One of the main benefits to fighting the non-attainment designation is the ability to attract more industry to Fayette County, officials said. Counties that are lumped into a non-attainment area often don’t know how many business prospects they miss out on because many companies take the list of non-attainment counties and cross them off their location list right away, Barnes said.

The commission unanimously approved the contract and expenditure Thursday night on a 4-0 vote with Commissioner Lee Hearn absent.

Barnes told the commission that while there are no guarantees the county will prevail, his company feels there is more than a fighting chance.

First, Tanner and Associates will have to convince the Georgia Environmental Protection Division of the need to remove Fayette from the non-attainment list. That is what the $15,000 cost covers. Then if that hurdle is cleared, it will be a matter of convincing the EPA, which will cost an additional $20,000.

The deadline to convince the EPA is Feb. 29, and after that the EPA is expected to make its final decision May 29, though there is a chance that could be delayed, Barnes noted.

Barnes is the former director of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division and also the former regional chief of staff for the U.S. EPA. He also is a Fayette County resident.



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