St. Bernard Parish remains the only parish in the state not meeting federal sulfur dioxide pollution requirements after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released the new recommendations Friday.

State officials called it good news, but the Sierra Club, which had taken legal action to get the designations made sooner than originally planned, said it is a disappointment.

Earlier in the year, DeSoto Parish had been considered for inclusion on the list of parishes that didn’t meet the standard for sulfur dioxide; however, computer modeling showed that the Dolet Hills Power Station was in compliance, said Vivian Aucoin, senior scientist with the state Department of Environmental Quality’s air permits division.

“This was good news for Louisiana,” she said. “The facilities are doing what they’re supposed to.”

Air monitors put in place in October will continue to collect information for better proof if the EPA decides to make the standard tougher in the future, she said.

Nevertheless, the Sierra Club released a statement Friday expressing disappointment in the EPA’s decision.

“EPA’s reversal is astonishing and will put the health of thousands of people at risk,” wrote Woody Martin, chairperson for the Delta Chapter of the Sierra Club. “It is a missed opportunity to hold Cleco Power and American Electric Power accountable for the massive amount of pollution they spew into the communities surrounding and downwind of Dolet Hills (in Desoto), and we will do everything we can to strengthen protections against this dangerous pollutant.”

According to the EPA, sulfur dioxide can cause breathing problems, including increasing asthma symptoms.

“Studies also show a connection between short-term exposure and increased visits to emergency departments and hospital admissions for respiratory illnesses, particularly in at-risk populations including children, the elderly and asthmatics,” according to the EPA.

Meanwhile, the state DEQ had recommended that Calcasieu Parish be classified in compliance with the air pollution standard, but in the release Friday, the EPA stood by an earlier assertion that the parish should be deemed unclassifiable.

Although there are four air monitors in the area of concern around two coal-fired power plants in Calcasieu, the EPA felt they were not located in the correct places to get a good reading.

In response to the designation “unclassifiable,” the state will need to decide whether proof is going to come in the form of computer modeling or air monitoring, she said. If the computer modeling is used, that information could be available by January, but if air monitoring is the decision, the monitors would need to start running Jan. 1 and collect at least three years of information.

St. Bernard Parish was listed as not meeting the federal standard during the first round of EPA designations in 2013. Facilities there have until 2018 to meet the standard.

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