BALTIMORE (February 2, 2004) – Maryland and other states in the Northeast have called for strict caps on nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2) and mercury emissions from U.S. power plants and a shorter timetable for reducing power plant emissions.
The Ozone Transport Commission (OTC) – representing 13 states and the District of Columbia – proposed the caps in response to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Interstate Air Quality rulemaking and the Clear Skies Initiative, both of which would allow more pollutants to enter the air.
“These pollutants cause acid rain, ground-level ozone and fine particle pollution,” said Kendl P. Philbrick, Maryland’s acting secretary of the environment, “and are the main causes for poor air quality in the Baltimore-Washington region. Because the pollutants that affect Maryland often originate in states to the west and south of Maryland, we need better pollution controls on power plants outside of Maryland and we need them as soon as possible.”
Maryland’s air quality is affected by emissions from out-of-state sources, particularly coal-fired power plants, because prevailing winds carry the pollutants from states to the west and south. The process is known as air pollution transport. Using special aircraft, state researchers often measure incoming pollution levels that are already at 90 percent of the standards.
Absent solution of the transport problem, Philbrick said, the state will not be able to achieve the air quality standards required by the deadline set by the federal Clean Air Act – around 2010 – and as a consequence both the Maryland economy and transportation planning will be hobbled.
“This is an issue of great importance to states in the Northeast, but it really goes beyond the interests of a single region,” Philbrick said. “It requires that every state understand and take responsibility for actions that affect people beyond its borders – in this case, for upwind states to require effective controls on plants that are sending pollutants into Maryland and the Northeast. We look forward to working with all the states, the EPA and Congress to adopt OTC’s approach to reducing acid rain and ground-level ozone.”
OTC member states have already achieved a 70 percent reduction in emissions from 1995 levels, according to Christopher Recchia, executive director of the organization, while the rest of the country has reduced emissions only by about 10 percent in this period.
“The EPA proposal, as with Clear Skies before it, proposes the right method – a cap and trade program for NOx and SO2 – but fails to reduce emissions sufficiently to meet the health standards,” Recchia said. “As a result, tens of thousands of additional premature deaths would occur, needlessly, which we could avoid if the OTC position is put into effect.”
Over the past year, a variety of pollution reduction plans have been proposed. The OTC resolution most closely shadows the reductions originally proposed in the EPA’s 2000 “Straw Proposal,” where it outlined the reductions needed to meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards throughout the U.S.
A copy of the Multi-Pollutant Position is available on the OTC website at www.otcair.org.
OTC is a multi-state organization whose main focus is to develop regional solutions to the ground-level ozone problem in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast region of the U.S. It is committed to finding innovative approaches that maximize public health and environmental benefits. OTC was created by Congress, and its members include: Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia.