Press Release

Baltimore, MD (June 15, 2012) – Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler and Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Robert M. Summers today announced a settlement agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that mandates stronger federal air standards for soot pollution before the end of the year. The EPA last revised the national soot pollution standards in 2006; it failed to do so in 2011 as required by the Clean Air Act, prompting the lawsuit.

“Protecting the environment is a team effort and this settlement is a great public health victory,” said Attorney General Gansler. “In Maryland, we have taken significant steps to drastically reduce the amount of industrial pollution and improve the quality of the air we breathe.”

“Over the past five years, Maryland has made significant progress in cleaning up air pollution. Because of programs like Maryland's Healthy Air Act and the Maryland Clean Car program, both smog and soot (also called fine particulate) air pollution levels are at the lowest they've been in 20 years,” said Secretary Summers. “This settlement will require EPA to move ahead quickly to update the fine particle standard so that we can continue to reduce exposure to this dangerous air pollutant.”

Maryland has made great strides in improving the state’s air quality in recent years thanks in part to the implementation of the Healthy Air Act, the Clean Cars Program, the adoption of EmPOWER Maryland and other programs and regulatory actions that focus on environmental preservation, public health, energy efficiency and the development of renewable energy sources. However, nearly 70 percent of Maryland’s air pollution comes from upwind states and more stringent federal rules are needed to further improve Maryland’s air quality.

The lawsuit, which was filed in February by New York and 10 other states, including Maryland, followed the EPA’s failure to revise in a timely manner its existing lax air standards for soot, which is a required provision of the federal Clean Air Act. The Consent Decree filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia requires the EPA to adopt updated standards for the harmful particulate matter by Dec. 14, 2012.

The new rule would set the maximum allowable standard for soot at a range of 12 to 13 micrograms per cubic meter of air. The current annual standard is 15 micrograms per cubic meter. Soot and other particulate matter pollution are most commonly released from industrial smokestacks, motor vehicle exhaust and wood-burning stoves. It contributes to haze and carries numerous adverse health consequences, including elevated risk for respiratory problems (asthma attacks, bronchitis) and decreased lung function.

Joining Maryland and New York in the lawsuit were California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

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