Maryland Department of the Environment Releases Clean Air Progress Report
Report describes improvement in the quality of the air Marylanders breathe
Baltimore, MD (April 30, 2015) – For the first time in more than three decades, the metropolitan Baltimore area is meeting the health-based federal standard for ground-level ozone air pollution, a new report by the Maryland Department of the Environment states. That determination, made by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is among the measures of continued improvement in air quality described in the report, Clean Air Progress in Maryland: Accomplishments 2015.
Reductions in emissions from utilities, motor vehicles and other sources have reduced the number of days on which Marylanders breathe unhealthy air. Maryland has had no Code Red air quality days for ozone in either of the past two summers. Maryland is currently meeting the federal standard for fine particle, or soot, pollution across the state.
The report’s conclusion states:
We have effective air pollution controls in place to address the pollution we generate in Maryland. Vehicles and fuels are cleaner. Utilities have invested billions of dollars in pollution controls. We have reduced toxics emissions from fuels, paints and industrial processes. There is still work to be done to meet our air quality goals.
The science informs us that the solutions to our air problems exist within and beyond our borders. Pollution that originates in the south and midwest is carried to Maryland and beyond by winds that transport pollution between cities, over mountains and along the Chesapeake Bay. Our research indicates 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 and we are urging the EPA to adopt federal rules to reduce emissions from these states. We are 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.
Reducing air pollution improves public health. Actions that reduce nitrogen pollution that can be deposited to the ground and waterways also help to restore the Chesapeake Bay.
This week is Air Quality Awareness Week. MDE encourages everyone to follow our air quality forecasts and take steps to help keep Maryland’s air clean.
- Ozone and fine particles are Maryland’s biggest air quality 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.
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has found that the metropolitan Baltimore area is for the first time in more than three decades meeting the health-based federal standard for ground-level ozone pollution. The EPA’s “Clean Data Determination,” proposed in the March 18 Federal Register, reflects air monitoring data for the past three years for the area that includes Baltimore City and Baltimore, Ann Arundel, Howard, Harford and Carroll counties. That data shows that the area did not exceed the current ozone standard for the first time since measurements began in 1980.
- Statewide, only two air quality monitors out of the 20 in the monitoring network are reading ozone values that exceed the current standard, and those readings are only seen one or two days a year in recent years. Those monitors are in Cecil County and Prince George’s County, and they represent about 10 percent of Maryland’s population.
- In recent years Maryland has implemented the Maryland Healthy Air Act, the toughest power plant emissions law on the East Coast, and the Maryland Clean Cars Program. Maryland power plants have invested $2.6 billion in technology to comply with the Maryland Healthy Air Act.
- The Maryland Department of the Environment has proposed regulations to reduce air pollution from the state’s coal-fired power plants and ensure the immediate public health benefits of protecting Marylanders from breathing unhealthy levels of ozone air pollution. The reductions expected from the implementation of the regulations for nitrogen oxides emissions from the state’s coal-fired power plants are expected to be significant and to be part of a series of initiatives that will allow Maryland to attain and maintain compliance with the current health-based, federal standard for ozone pollution. However, continued reductions are necessary because the EPA is expected to propose a new, more stringent ozone standard this year.
- Maryland has been meeting the federal standard for fine particle pollution since 2008. Maryland has also been able to meet a more rigorous standard for fine particle pollution that took effect in 2012.
- Maryland has made considerable progress in reducing exposure to toxic air pollutants.
- The Maryland Clean Cars Program requires California’s stricter standards to reduce emissions, including greenhouse gases and pollutants that help create ozone, and requirements for zero emission vehicles. Maryland has seen significant growth statewide in these types of vehicles. This has meant growth not only in the vehicle market but significant growth in the development of the charging infrastructure to support this market.
- Maryland has established monitoring stations near major roadways to obtain an even more detailed picture of the quality of our air.
- Maryland’s research shows that measured “incoming” ozone levels are often at levels that are already higher than the current standard. This air pollution that floats from state to state affects almost every state east of the Mississippi River. Over the past few years, Maryland has played a critical role in bringing together approximately 25 states in the east to see where progress could be made in addressing this critical issue. This collaborative effort with Air Directors and Commissioners in many states is looking at new regional control efforts for power plants, vehicles and other sources of air pollution. Emission reduction progress is expected to begin this summer.
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 to conserve energy and reduce emissions.
- When possible, walk, bike or use public transportation.
- Do not idle your vehicle’s engine – keep the air clean and save fuel.
- Maintain your vehicles in good working order and check tire pressure regularly.
- Shop with reusable bags instead of using paper or plastic.
- Plant trees in locations around your home to provide shade in the summer.
- Follow air quality forecasts and plan your outdoor activity as appropriate.
- Put off mowing the lawn or painting and reduce driving on bad air days.
“Metropolitan Baltimore is meeting the health-based standard for ozone and that means hard work, strong controls, and steady investments are paying off. But we also know much more needs to be done, immediately and over the next five years, within the state and beyond, to consistently improve and maintain Maryland’s air quality.”
— Ben Grumbles, Secretary, Maryland Department of the Environment