"This will make the area more attractive to businesses that would have otherwise passed us by. What this could mean to the future of the area is a great deal of positive development," said Bob Walton Sr., Southern Ohio Port Authority (SOPA) executive director. "Any company that comes into our area that will have air emissions will no longer have to purchase air credits. There will no longer be that cost to the company."
SOPA has been working with the Ohio EPA, the U.S. EPA and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown to make this decision a reality.
"This decision might mean an expansion of local industries. That's every bit as good as a new industry," Walton said.
Brown said the designation proves southern Ohio has worked to improve its air quality.
"The new designation officially recognizes the work of business and community leaders along with resident of Scioto and surrounding counties," Brown said. "This news will clear the way for new investments in southern Ohio, bringing jobs and increased development to the region.”
On May 18, Brown sent a letter to the U.S. EPA encouraging them to consider the request
"The Ohio EPA has stated that the Huntington-Ashland area meets the 1997 federal fine particulate standard and that current air pollution controls will enable the area to maintain the necessary levels of air quality," Brown wrote. "It is my understanding that recognition by the U.S. EPA will help bring job creation and economic development to Portsmouth and the surrounding area. It is my hope this will help lead to the creation of new businesses and the expansion of existing businesses in the region."
In changing the designation, the U.S. EPA said the tri-state Huntington-Ashland, West Virginia-Kentucky-Ohio region has attained 1997 levels of fine particulate standards.
Scioto County is included in that region, with all or parts of three counties in West Virginia, Boyd County, Ky., and Lawrence and Gallia counties in Ohio.
"What this means is that the Huntington-Ashland area officially meets the air quality standard for particulate matter for the 1997 standard." said Carol Hester, Ohio EPA spokeswoman. "This ruling is effective on Oct. 7."
WAYNE ALLEN may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 208, or email@example.com.