Catoosa, Dade and Walker counties said Chattanooga's bad air is not their fault, and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) agrees.
The EPD plans to ask the federal EPA to exempt the counties from Chattanooga's designation as not meeting revised ozone standards.
"Georgia's analysis indicates that we will not recommend Catoosa or any other Georgia county as part of the Chattanooga ozone non-attainment area," said Jimmy Johnston, air support planning manager for the EPD.
The federal agency lowered the acceptable level of ozone from 0.08 parts per million to 0.075 parts per million, effective March 2008, Mr. Johnston said.
He said air quality monitors in the Chattanooga area, as well as monitors in Georgia, show violations of the revised ozone standards. The Georgia counties are included in the Chattanooga/Hamilton County Metropolitan area.
The Georgia EPD has determined that the Georgia counties are not contributing to Chattanooga's ozone issues, he said.
"If it was, (the counties) would be designated as non-attainment," he said. "But our analysis recommended (they) not be included."
Georgia officials said stricter limits for ozone could force them to adopt stricter clean air measures for pollution they do not produce.
"We are being penalized and measured by pollution that comes from the Midwest and other areas where we have absolutely no control," Fort Oglethorpe Mayor Ronnie Cobb said. "Just because we are in Chattanooga's monitoring area and we have an interstate running through our county, when we read high we are penalized."
The Georgia counties do exceed the allowable levels for fine particulate, which can be harmful if breathed, the state EPD reports. Ozone, though comprised of oxygen, is bad for lungs, causing damage and illnesses from prolonged exposure.
The deadline for the state's recommendations is March 12. The EPA is expected to announce its decisions by Nov. 12, and then there will be an appeal period.
Catoosa County Manager Mike Helton said the county will appeal if the decision goes against them.
"It's not good to have that status," he said. "It can affect a company's consideration whether to come here. It also affects opportunities for some grants."