eMDE – Ben’s Blog: Thoughts from Sec. Ben Grumbles




Ben's Blog. Thoughts from Secretary Ben Grumbles

The “O’s Zone”

Recent MDE actions will help ensure ozone reduction for all citizens

Camden Yards is my favorite place to watch baseball, and way up high is my favorite place to “watch” ozone do its important work in shielding the planet (and my pale skin) from dangerous ultraviolet radiation. The big problem with the gas is when it’s closer to home. Ground level ozone threatens public health and the environment — but the good news is Maryland is making real progress in combating the pollution.


Up in the stratosphere, six to 30 miles above the earth’s surface, “good” ozone works to shield people, plants and animals from dangerous radiation. In the troposphere, six miles down to the ground, “bad” ozone is formed by chemical reactions between nitrogen oxide (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) in the presence of sunlight. This dangerous ozone forms the bulk of what we call smog, which threatens lungs, hearts and the futures of citizens and communities. It also damages crops and wildlife.

Continuing Progress

EPA’s “clean data determination” (March 2015) demonstrated the Baltimore region, once the second smoggiest in the nation, did not exceed current ozone standards for the first time since measurements began in 1980. That’s good news for the large number of people who live in the Baltimore area. In August, EPA issued a proposal that would reward Maryland for continued improvements in air quality by extending a deadline for some other parts of the state to meet the ozone standard. Ninety percent of Marylanders are living in areas with clean air. But it’s hardly reason to celebrate or slow up our efforts.

Weather and continuing challenges with mobile and stationary sources of pollution keep us from declaring “victory.” Better controls for power plants and other sources of pollution, cleaner forms of energy and smarter choices for transportation are all helping us on the home front.

Recent Action

In May, MDE issued regulations to control NOx emissions from Maryland coal-fired power plants. We required the facilities to optimize their pollution controls 24/7 throughout the entire ozone season. That’s making a positive difference and other states are looking to use the same “optimization” approach. MDE has also recently proposed aggressive, balanced regulations for ozone seasons in 2016 through 2020.

Maryland power plants can meet the new standards through different approaches, such as adding more controls, shifting from coal to natural gas or using market-based strategies that allow averaging with the highest performing plant in the company’s system while meeting stringent daily emission limits. The regulations put a priority on protecting public health and the environment but also include some flexibility on compliance strategies, as well as a “reliability safety valve” to reduce the risk of power outages for consumers.

MDE, the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) and Governor Hogan are also putting a priority on mobile sources. This includes a continuing commitment to cleaner cars, more electric vehicle charging stations and better technologies and new options for the 1.7 million users of the Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program (VEIP). Look for a wide range of improvements at VEIP stations and self-serve kiosks over the coming months. Customer service and environmental progress go hand-in-hand, and both are in the driver’s seat for MDE and MDOT.

For Maryland, success isn’t just about teamwork on the home field, it’s about action on the road and around the region — specifically the Ozone Transport Region, where states upwind of and all around Maryland commit to do more and share data and strategies. With leadership from Tad Aburn, Director of MDE’s Air and Radiation Management Administration (ARMA), MDE also has a history of using regional, multistate collaborations such as the Ozone Transport Commission and “SCOOT” (State Collaborative on Ozone Transport). I’m enthused about the air partnerships among our state, Virginia, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New Jersey, North Carolina, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, Illinois, Ohio and others. Sometimes it’s tough sledding, as other states aren’t always as enthusiastic about putting controls in place to be “good neighbors,” but that’s where EPA, the federal Clean Air Act and state-led peer pressure can help.

As the 2016 ozone season closes on September 30 and baseball playoffs begin (on October 6 or 8 depending on wildcards), I’ll be rooting for the O’s and against ground level ozone. MDE and ARMA are in it to win, day-in and day-out, during the season and throughout the year, whether it’s an uphill battle against upwind, out-of-state polluters or a walk in the Park at Camden Yards.

What are your thoughts? Please share them by contacting Ben at editor.mde@maryland.gov.


WJZ-TV: Volunteers Clean up West Baltimore School for Day Of Service Initiative

The Maryland Department of the Environment partnered with a West Baltimore elementary school in a day of service event to beautify the school building and grounds ahead of the school year.


EPA gives high marks to Maryland’s animal agriculture regulations and programs

A new EPA report has a lot of good things to say about Maryland’s animal agricultural regulations and programs.

MDE Secretary Ben Grumbles says: “Maryland is an environmental leader in working with agriculture and the EPA knows it – they describe MDE’s program to regulate large animal feeding operations as ‘well-implemented’ and the State’s overall program as ‘robust.’ Environmental innovation, regulatory certainty and compliance assistance will drive our success in cleaning the Bay and growing the agricultural economy.”

Read more

Customer service

MDE and partner Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration debuted a new self-service kiosk to enhance customer convenience at Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program locations in Glen Burnie and Gaithersburg.

Maryland VEIP Self-Service Kiosk - Open for Business!“My administration is committed to making state government and its services more efficient and more responsive,” Governor Larry Hogan said as part of the Aug. 21 debut of the kiosks. “Today’s announcement demonstrates how we are expanding available technology to bring the residents of Maryland a faster, more convenient way to do business and help protect the environment — a win-win for all.”

Fair Play

Visiting the Maryland State Fair this week? Stop by the MDE booth in the DNR (Mosner Miller) Building, learn how to build a waste-free lunch, and take a picture for our waste-free lunch gallery. Check out the gallery on our Flickr page: http://bit.ly/MDwastefree


The Stat- 3 - The number of days this summer, as of Sept. 1, in which the ozone standard was exceeded in Maryland. The record low number is five days, set last year.About this STAT

A new federal proposal rewards Maryland for continued improvements in air quality – gains that position Maryland to meet standards for the pollutant ground level ozone throughout the state for the first time.
“The hard work, strong controls and steady investments made for clean air are paying off with remarkable progress that has us poised to meet air quality standards across the state for the first time ever,” said Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles. “But this will be a short celebration if we do not continue to make improvements needed to meet a more stringent ozone standard. Much more needs to be done, within the state and beyond, to consistently improve and maintain Maryland’s air quality.”Read more




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