Licking County is one of five Ohio counties expected to face a stricter ozone pollution standard in the near future.

Licking County is one of five Ohio counties expected to face a stricter ozone pollution standard in the near future.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced a proposal to replace the ozone pollution standard set by the previous administration.

Five central Ohio counties with ozone monitors to be affected by the tougher limit include Licking, Delaware, Franklin, Knox and Madison. In September, those counties were designated as meeting the 1997 standard of 0.084 parts per million (ppm); however, EPA's recent proposal announced that the agency would begin looking at strengthening the standard to a range of 0.060 ppm to 0.070 ppm measured over eight hours.

The revision will be guided by more than 1,700 scientific studies.

Heidi Griesmer, spokesperson for the Ohio EPA, said it's too early to tell how local residents would be affected by such a change.

"It's something that affects everyone, but the time period is long," she said.

"The U.S. EPA proposed a range, and we do know that all of central Ohio won't meet any range they're proposing," she said.

A public-comment period began Jan. 18 and continues for 60 days following publication of the proposal in the Federal Register. A final standard is expected to be issued by Aug. 31. For more information, visit www.epa.gov/groundlevelozone.

"The U.S. EPA will tell states what they need to do, and we'll have a year to give them their air-quality data," Griesmer said. "People won't see new programs going into place between four and six years."

The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) will work with the Ohio EPA to proactively identify strategies that reduce air pollution while protecting central Ohio's economy, said Bernie Cage of MORPC.

MORPC's efforts to improve air quality will include the following:

Issuing daily air-quality forecasts for the region. Alerting the public when air pollution reaches levels considered unhealthy for certain sensitive groups. Working with diesel fleets to install emissions-reduction technology. Providing carpool and vanpool assistance to commuters. Coordinating central Ohio greenway trails and roadways to encourage walking and bicycling. Providing home weatherization assistance and energy-efficient upgrades to income-eligible applicants. Completing carbon-footprint assessments for local governments. Linking air quality with issues of transportation, energy, local food, water quality, housing and the economy in a regional planning project.