The New Mexico Environment Department has delayed adoption of more stringent rules targeting emissions in the Four Corners region that contribute to ozone pollution. State officials said they have a good reason for not considering the rules this year, but environmentalists argue ozone is a recurring problem in the northwest corner of the state and officials are shirking their responsibility to address the region's air quality concerns. State law allows New Mexico to adopt tougher regulations than the federal government only if ozone levels are within 95 percent of the federal standard of 0.075 parts per million. However, readings in the Four Corners � home to two coal-fired power plants and oil and gas development � were unusually low this summer and failed to meet that threshold. "In a way, it's good news that we've had better readings. It's good news for air quality and for residents in that area," said Jim Norton, director of the department's Environmental Protection Division. Still, the Environment Department and environmentalists agree the region is not out of the woods. If ozone levels go up next year, Norton said the state may need to consider adopting the rules that were tabled, which call for cleaner burning compression engines at oil and gas well sites and the installation of other equipment designed to capture emissions.


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