EPA slightly strengthened its fine particulate standard in 2006. Since then, the agency has been working with states and tribes to determine which counties don't meet the new standard.
EPA released its recommendations on Aug. 22, 2008. In many cases, there are significant differences between what a state or tribe suggested — 147 counties or parts of counties out of compliance — and what the EPA is recommending — 215 counties, in 25 states. That means there will be battles in at least 68 counties during the 30-day public comment period that likely will end in early October, and prior to EPA's issuance of final designations by Dec. 18, 2008.
- EPA map of nonattainment counties. 
- EPA list of agency and state or tribal designations fornonattainment. 
- EPA fact sheet. 
After the designations are finalized, most nonattainment areas will have five years to plan for and attain compliance, though some with severe problems might be granted an extension for an additional five years. Failure to meet the standard typically results in threats of, and occasionally actual loss of, certain federal funding. It also means an increased threat to human health.
For more information on the controversy over the 2006 update of the standard, see the TipSheet of Sept. 13, 2006.