Monday, January 09, 2006

Clean Air Watch to EPA: Don't Act As If You Are Above the Law

Clean Air Watch
1090 Vermont Avenue, NW, Suite 800
Washington, DC 20005

January 5, 2006

Mr. Thomas V. Skinner
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Region 5
77 West Jackson Boulevard Mail Code: R-19J Chicago, IL 60604-3507

Dear Mr. Skinner:

I am writing to you regarding the illegal suspension of Ohio’s vehicle emission inspection program.

Clean Air Watch is a national non-profit watchdog organization that monitors air pollution control policy. We keep close tabs on smog problems around the nation. We recently reported on national smog problems during 2005. See at

We were struck by the recent report by the American Lung Associations of Ohio and Kentucky, “The Ohio/Kentucky Smog Report,” which documented the significant and persistent smog problem in the Cincinnati-Dayton area. The report points out that there are many at-risk populations living in that area, including: more than 219,000 people with asthma (children and adults), more than 86,000 people with chronic bronchitis, and over 31,000 people with emphysema. These diseases can be greatly aggravated by unhealthful levels of ozone pollution. The Cincinnati-Dayton area experienced 19 days of unhealthful air this past summer. The grim result is more emergency room visits, more asthma attacks and more premature deaths.

In light of this very significant public health problem, Clean Air Watch was stunned not only by the arbitrary and flatly illegal decision by the state of Ohio to eliminate auto inspection and maintenance programs in southern Ohio, but also by the apparent decision by the federal government to encourage such lawless behavior. This action by Ohio and the apparent complicity by EPA Region 5 undermines the integrity of the State Implementation Plan (SIP) process.

In a December 28, 2005, letter to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, Stephen Rothblatt, director of the Air and Radiation Division of U.S. EPA Region V, makes it clear that the U.S. EPA knew well in advance that Ohio was planning to terminate a legally mandated and effective smog-fighting program without even seeking EPA’s approval.

The U.S. EPA’s action in this episode creates the unfortunate appearance of a federal agency that thinks it is above the law – an agency that only decides to enforce the law when it appears politically convenient. It is the sort of action that can further undermine public confidence in our national government.

Mr. Skinner, I am particularly disappointed that such inappropriate behavior by the federal government is happening on your watch as administrator of EPA’s Region V branch office. You were formerly head of the U.S. EPA’s national enforcement office and should understand the importance of enforcing the law. In this instance, the U.S. EPA’s cavalier disregard of the law can only lead to increased suffering for many thousands of breathers.

I urge you to reconsider the U.S. EPA’s ill-considered behavior and require that Ohio meet the requirements of its SIP and reinstate its vehicle inspection and maintenance program.

Thank you for taking time to review this matter. I look forward to your response.


Frank O’Donnell
Clean Air Watch

Bharat Mathur, Deputy Regional Administrator
Margo Oge, Director, Office of Transportation and Air Quality
Steve Page, Director, Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards
Stephen Rothblatt, Director, Air & Radiation Division
Bill Wehrum, Assistant Administrator, Office of Air and Radiation

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