Department of the Environment Releases Maryland Clean Air Progress Report

BALTIMORE, MD (April 30, 2012) - Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Robert M. Summers met with fifth-grade students at The Green School of Baltimore for a demonstration and discussion about the importance of air quality to public health and to announce the release of MDE’s “Clean Air Progress in Maryland” report. The percentage of Good and Moderate days of air quality has increased steadily in Maryland over the last decade, while the percentage of Bad air days continues to decline. The report cites the significant, measurable benefits of implementing the Maryland Healthy Air Act – the toughest power plant emission law on the east coast. It also notes that pollution from neighboring states is the top contributor to Maryland’s ground-level ozone problem and describes actions being taken by Maryland to address this issue.

More Information
The Maryland Clean Air Progress Report shows significant improvement in our state’s air quality thanks to decades of sustained efforts and the continued strong support of Maryland’s air quality programs by Governor Martin O’Malley.  With Maryland’s implementation of the Healthy Air Act, the Clean Cars Act, the Climate Action Strategy, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, energy conservation and renewable energy goals, the scientific evidence shows that Maryland has effective controls in place to address the air pollution generated in-state. However, the science also demonstrates clearly that we cannot fully meet air quality standards that protect public health without controlling air pollution generated outside of our State’s borders. Research indicates that states upwind of Maryland are responsible for about 70 percent of Maryland’s current air quality problem. Therefore, reducing emissions in upwind states is the key to solving our air quality problems.

Core Facts
  • Ozone and fine particles are Maryland’s biggest air issues. Both pollutants are created from fuel-burning sources such as vehicles, electric utilities and industrial boilers. These pollutants can irritate the respiratory system causing coughing, throat irritation and chest pains. They are also linked to premature death.
  • Through a combination of State and federal actions, Maryland’s air quality has improved significantly.
  • Concentrations of toxic air pollution have been cut nearly in half over the last decade.
  • Maryland is currently measuring fine particle levels that meet the federal standards across the state.
  • Maryland has taken significant steps in controlling in-State air pollution sources. Governor O’Malley’s leadership in implementing the Healthy Air Act, the Clean Cars Program, the Climate Action Plan and his continued support of improving our air quality is a major factor in this success.
  • Emissions reductions from the Maryland Healthy Air Act are occurring in two phases. The first phase, which occurred in the 2009-2010 timeframe, reduced emissions of nitrogen oxides by almost 70 percent and sulfur dioxide and mercury emissions by 80 percent.  In the second phase, which is occurring in the 2010-2013 timeframe, nitrogen oxides emissions will be reduced by about 75 percent, sulfur dioxide emissions will be reduced by 85 percent and 90 percent of mercury emissions will be controlled.
  • To accomplish these reductions, Maryland utilities have invested approximately $2.6 billion in pollution controls to meet the requirements of the Healthy Air Act.
  • The Maryland Clean Cars Program, adopted by the Maryland General Assembly in 2007, requires California’s stricter vehicle emission standards. These new car standards became effective in Maryland for model year 2011 vehicles, significantly reducing a number of emissions including volatile organic compounds (VOCs), nitrogen oxides and Greenhouse Gasses.
  • Despite these actions, Maryland is not meeting ground-level ozone standards.
  • Pollution from neighboring states is the top contributor to Maryland’s continuing ground-level ozone problem.
  • Addressing air pollutants from neighboring states is a priority for Maryland. Maryland is urging the EPA to adopt federal rules to reduce emissions from these states. Maryland is also working with EPA and other states to use provisions in the federal Clean Air Act to ensure that these reductions in upwind states become effective.
Terminology
  • Ozone is a gas that occurs in two layers of the atmosphere.  Nitrogen oxide is emitted when fossil fuels are burned. Nitrogen oxide combined with volatile organic compounds to form ground-level ozone when cooked by the sun.
  • When ozone is up very high in the atmosphere it is considered “good” as it protects us from the sun’s ultra-violet rays, however when ozone occurs near ground-level it becomes harmful to human health and our environment.
  • Particle pollution (also called particulate matter or PM) is the term for a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. Some particles, such as dust, dirt, soot, or smoke are large or dark enough to be seen with the naked eye. Others are so small that they can not be seen by the naked eye.
  • Sulfur dioxide is produced by the burning of fossil fuels containing sulfur compounds. It is the most significant contributor to the problem of fine particles, which creates haze that decreases visibility and is linked to premature death and heart and lung problems.
What You Can Do
  • Conserve energy by turning off lights and appliances when you leave a room.
  • Use energy efficient appliances such as refrigerators, air conditioners, heat pumps and furnaces.
  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – this also conserves energy and reduces emissions.
  • When possible, walk, bike or use public transportation to get around town.
  • Don’t have your car sit in park and idle – this will reduce burning fuel and toxins from being released into the air.
  • Get regular engine tune ups and car maintenance checkups.
  • Carpool or use public transit to get to work.
  • Shop with reusable bags instead of using paper or plastic.
  • Plant trees in locations around your home to provide shade in the summer.
Quotes
“For nearly 40 years, Maryland has been a leader in national efforts to improve air quality, but our research shows that states upwind of Maryland are responsible for about 70 percent of Maryland’s air quality problem. Addressing air pollutants from neighboring states is a priority for Maryland. ”

--Robert M. Summers, Secretary, Maryland Department of the Environment 

“Breathing clean air is something most of us take for granted.  But if you have respiratory concerns such as asthma, poor air quality is something that can’t be ignored. We all make choices everyday that can help reduce air pollution.”

--Robert M. Summers, Secretary, Maryland Department of the Environment

Additional Information
  • Air Quality Awareness Week (April 30-May 4) Fact Sheet
  • Quality of Air Monthly Reports
  • Maryland Healthy Air Act
  • Maryland Clean Cars Program

Images
Ozone Transport Diagram Clean Air:  Good v. Bad Air Days Air Quality Awareness Week Proclamation
Download Download Download

 

See more of today's event photos on our Flickr page.

Contacts

Samantha Kappalman
Samantha.Kappalman@maryland.gov

Jay Apperson
Jay.Apperson@maryland.gov

410-537-3003

MDE Mission
Our mission is to protect and restore the quality of Maryland's air, water and land resources, while fostering smart growth, a thriving and sustainable economy and healthy communities.