Maryland Department of the Environment Releases Annual Clean Air Progress Report, Launches Air Quality Awareness Week

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MARYLAND DEPARTMENT OF THE ENVIRONMENT RELEASES ANNUAL CLEAN AIR PROGRESS REPORT, LAUNCHES AIR QUALITY AWARENESS WEEK

Report describes Maryland’s air quality improvements and new regulations for further gains, federal rule to reduce pollution from other states;  Air Quality Awareness Week begins today

BALTIMORE, MD (May 2, 2016) – The quality of the air Marylanders breathe continues to improve and Maryland has a plan to meet more stringent health-based standards, a new report by the Maryland Department of the Environment finds.

The Department’s Maryland 2016 Clean Air Progress Report states that, for the first time in three decades, Maryland is “very close” to meeting all federal air quality standards. Air pollution generated in Maryland is reduced by such controls as cleaner vehicles and fuel, multibillion-dollar investments by power plants and reduced emissions from fuels and consumer products. While beneficial weather patterns and cooler summer temperatures in recent years have played a part in reducing air pollution, emissions reductions resulting from Maryland’s air quality regulations have reduced the number of days that Marylanders breathe unhealthy air, the report finds.

The report highlights new regulations that build on the success of the Maryland Healthy Air Act by requiring further improvements from the state’s coal-fired power plants. It describes a federal rule that will require power plants to reduce emissions contributing to air pollution in Maryland and other downwind states. It also reports that reauthorization of the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act, signed into law by Governor Larry Hogan, will help Maryland reduce ground level ozone and fine particle pollution.

“The strong partnerships and steady investments for clean air are paying off and positioning us to meet air quality standards across the state for the first time ever,” Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles said. “But this clear progress will be a short celebration if we do not continue to make improvements to meet a more stringent ozone standard. More needs to be done, within the state and beyond in upwind states, to consistently improve and maintain Maryland’s air quality.”

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.

Air Quality Awareness Week is May 2 to May 6. The Department of the Environment encourages everyone to follow our air quality forecasts, learn how air quality affects your health, follow our air quality forecasts and take steps to help keep Maryland’s air clean.

Maryland is close to meeting all federal air quality standards 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has determined that the metropolitan Baltimore area is meeting the 2008 health-based standard for ground level ozone – the standard that was the focus of Maryland’s clean air plan for 2015 to 2018. Over the past year Maryland has, for the first time, measured and recorded air quality across the entire state that meets that standard.

Last year, the EPA finalized a more stringent ozone standard that will improve public health protection. Maryland and other states must begin a new planning process to meet the more stringent standard. “This more stringent ozone standard will present challenges for Maryland, but the Department has a plan to address these challenges,” the report states.

The report describes a key element of that plan: reducing coal-fired power plant emissions of nitrogen oxides, a pollutant that helps form ozone. Those regulations are being implemented in two phases – an initial phase requiring plants to continuously operate pollution controls beginning in last summer’s ozone season and a second phase that contains four options for further reductions by 2020.

Research shows that pollution from upwind states accounts for up to 70 percent of the ozone levels recorded in Maryland, the report states. Maryland has played a critical role in recent years in bringing together more than 20 states to see where progress can be made to reduce transported air pollution. The report notes that the EPA’s updated Cross State Air Pollution Rule requires power plants to cut emissions that contribute to air pollution to other states and that Maryland power plants are already subject to Maryland regulations that are more stringent than the federal limit.

In 2015, 15 of Maryland’s 18 ozone monitors recorded results that meet the new standard. Modeling shows the Department’s air quality regulations and initiatives will continue to reduce ozone levels and by next year the remaining three monitors will also record results that meet the new standard, the report states.

Maryland attained the federal standard for fine particle pollution in 2012, and fine particle levels continue to drop, the report states.

In years past Code Red Air Quality days were not uncommon in Maryland, but there has been just one Code Red day in the past three years.

As a result of the new, more stringent ozone standard, the number of poor air days forecast and observed is expected to increase. This does not mean air quality has suddenly gotten worse. It means a more protective standard is now in place.

Key facts

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Regulations became effective last year to reduce air pollution from the state’s coal-fired power plants and ensure the public health benefits of protecting Marylanders from breathing unhealthy levels of ozone air pollution. The reductions 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 federal standards.
  • Maryland has made considerable progress in reducing exposure to toxic air pollutants.
  • The Maryland Clean Cars Program requires stricter-than-EPA 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.

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.
  • Put off mowing the lawn or painting and reduce driving on bad air days.
  • Follow air quality forecasts and plan your outdoor activity as appropriate.

 

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