Image: Downtown Houston
David J. Phillip  /  AP
Downtown Houston on Thursday. The Environmental Protection Agency has reclassified the Houston area's smog problem as "severe."
updated 10/2/2008 8:04:40 PM ET 2008-10-03T00:04:40

Houston has joined Los Angeles to become the second place in the U.S. classified as having a severe smog problem, the Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday.

The EPA reclassified the smog problem in the eight-county Houston area from moderate so that the region has an extra nine years to meet federal health standards set in 1997. The state was supposed to meet the requirements in 2010 but now has until 2019.

The EPA no longer considers the 1997 standard safe for public health, but agency spokeswoman Catherine Milbourn said progress toward it will protect the public and bring regions closer to meeting stricter requirements.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry had asked the agency for the extension last year in a move praised by the business association Greater Houston Partnership.

"The partnership believes that improvement in air quality is important in order to maintain a robust, viable economic climate and to improve public health in the region," spokeswoman Christina Garza said.

But clean air advocates were skeptical.

"What are we doing here?" said Matthew Tejada, executive director of the Galveston-Houston Association for Smog Prevention, in a Houston Chronicle story for Thursday's editions. "We've just done a bureaucratic dance, and we're not any closer to clean air."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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