BALTIMORE (May 3, 1999) - The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to compel facilities in Midwestern and mid-Atlantic states to reduce oxides of nitrogen (NOx) air emissions from their fossil-fueled power plants. These emissions contribute to unhealthful ground-level ozone conditions in Maryland and hamper the state's progress towards meeting federal health-based clean air standards.
Approximately 90 percent of Maryland's residents live in and breathe air that violates the health standard for ozone. Ground-level ozone, Maryland's most serious air pollution problem, is formed when NOx and volatile organic compounds mix in the presence of bright, hot sunlight. While the state has taken several significant measures to reduce the two precursor chemicals that form ground-level ozone such as establishing the Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program, an analysis of transport of ground-level ozone air pollution by EPA found that 11 jurisdictions significantly contribute to Maryland's ozone concentrations. Those states are Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.
The federal Clean Air Act allows states to petition EPA to take action against sources of pollution in other states that contribute to that state’s violations of federal health-based air quality standards. Nine other northeastern states; New Jersey, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont have such petitions pending before EPA. Maryland has been named in many of these petitions as contributing to other states' air pollution.
Maryland has requested that EPA order sources in 11 other jurisdictions in the Midwestern and mid-Atlantic area to adhere to specific emission limits and EPA-mandated timeframes for reducing air emissions from large electric generating units and non-electric generating units.
In 1994, Maryland and several other states requested that EPA address the overwhelming transport of ozone across state boundaries. In cooperation with the National Governors Association and the Environmental Council of the States, EPA created the 37-state Ozone Transportation Assessment Group (OTAG).
An OTAG study conclusively demonstrated that emissions of NOx from upwind states to the south and west are a major cause of ozone air pollution in the Northeast. On July 8, 1997, OTAG recommended that EPA implement a number of specific and national control measures to reduce the transport of ozone. EPA promulgated regulations, which established NOx emission caps for 23 jurisdictions, including Maryland, effective in 2003.
The federal statute requires EPA, within 60 days, to make a finding whether to grant or deny the petition.