BALTIMORE, MD (August 4, 2006) – Coming off of a scorching week where record-breaking temperatures were seen throughout the State, Maryland residents breathe a sigh of relief as air quality levels barely stray beyond the Moderate range. Temperatures routinely crossed the 100° mark, yet the air quality was not nearly as bad as one might expect. The State did not experience any Code Red air quality days during this last spell of hot weather.
Ground-level ozone is Maryland’s most pervasive summertime air pollutant and is strongly associated with high temperatures among other weather phenomena.
“When we see days above 90° in the summer, we would normally experience widespread ozone pollution in the region,” explains Tad Aburn, director of the Air and Radiation Management Administration with the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE). “But this is not the case anymore. In recent years, ozone episodes have been much less frequent, shorter in duration, and smaller in their footprint.”
Some of the improvements can be attributed to cool, wet summers like those experienced in 2003 and 2004. Mainly however, significant reductions in the amount of pollution entering the State and being produced locally are the reason for the improvements.
Recent regional air pollution controls have lessened the burden on our State and have helped to improve monitored levels of ozone pollution. In 2003, the first round of NOx reductions at power plants went into effect through a federal program known as the NOx SIP Call. NOx, or nitrogen oxides, in combination with volatile organic compounds are the precursor pollutants that lead to the formation of ground level ozone. Additional NOx controls for automobiles have been phased in as part of the federal motor vehicle control program. Recent new measures controlling the amount of pollution produced by consumer products and paint manufacturers have also aided in improving our air quality.
Maryland still has significant air quality challenges ahead and is striving to work hard to meet these challenges and bring healthy air to the citizens of Maryland. Federal standards for air pollution are periodically reviewed and often tightened to reflect new science learned on the impact of air quality upon human health. To help meet federal air quality standards, Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., signed into law the Healthy Air Act on April 6, 2006. The Healthy Air Act is the toughest power plant emission law on the east coast. The Act closely mirrors the emission reductions proposed in 2005 under the Governor’s Clean Power Regulations. Once enacted, the final version of the regulations will constitute the most sweeping air pollution emission reduction measure proposed in Maryland history.
“These regulations are the key to bringing Maryland into compliance with new federal ozone and fine particulate air quality standards by 2010 and will also help clean up the Bay,” said MDE Secretary Kendl P. Philbrick. “We look forward to making Maryland a national leader in air quality.”