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News Releases from Region 05

EPA and Illinois Announce Pekin Area Now Meets Federal Air Quality Standard for Sulfur Dioxide

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Joshua Singer (

PEKIN, Ill. (June 25, 2020) -- Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Illinois EPA announced the formal redesignation of the Pekin area to attainment of the federal air quality standard for sulfur dioxide. The Pekin area now meets the 2010 National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for sulfur dioxide and all other federal air quality standards set to protect public health. 

“EPA’s partnership with the State of Illinois has resulted in cleaner, healthier air in the Pekin area, which is home to more than 40,000 people,” said EPA Region 5 Administrator Kurt Thiede. “In addition to cleaner air, now that Pekin is redesignated, local businesses will face fewer air permitting restrictions, paving the way for the infrastructure investment and economic development that help create jobs.”

“Illinois EPA worked hard to ensure that the rules enabling us to get to this point protected the environment and reduced sulfur dioxide emissions,” said Illinois EPA Director John J. Kim.  "We are pleased these efforts were achieved while also being fair to Illinois businesses.”

The Trump Administration has redesignated 23 nonattainment areas since 2017 in EPA Region 5, which is comprised of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Attainment redesignations mean cleaner air, improved health outcomes, and greater economic opportunities for cities and communities across the country.

Under President Trump, combined emissions of criteria and precursor pollutants in the U.S. have dropped 7% and the amount of sulfur dioxide in our air decreased 16%. Nationally, the Trump Administration has redesignated 41 nonattainment areas since 2017.

EPA worked collaboratively with Illinois EPA to develop strategies for attaining the sulfur dioxide standard, which included new emission limits for two power plants and an ethanol plant in the area. The Pekin area is comprised of three townships in Peoria and Tazewell counties. Recent monitoring data and air modeling show that sulfur dioxide concentrations in the Pekin area are below the 2010 NAAQS for sulfur dioxide.

Along with the redesignation, EPA is approving Illinois’ maintenance plan to ensure that the area will continue to meet the sulfur dioxide standard. The redesignation was finalized after the public had an opportunity to comment on the proposal. Now that Pekin has met the air quality standard for sulfur dioxide, the area is in attainment for all NAAQS.

Reduced sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere means cleaner healthier air for the citizens of Pekin, especially children, the elderly, and those who suffer from asthma and are particularly sensitive to effects of sulfur dioxide. Reduced levels of sulfur dioxide and other sulfur oxides are also good for the environment. A decrease in these compounds means less chances of haze and acid rain, which can harm sensitive ecosystems.

Nationally, average concentrations of sulfur dioxide decreased 80% from 2000 to 2018. All other air pollutants regulated under NAAQS – carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, and particulate matter – have also significantly decreased thanks to the various air quality management and control strategies developed and implemented at the local, state, regional, and national level.

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