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Maryland Department of the Environment

Maryland Environment Secretary to lead regional air pollution commission

Media contact: Jay Apperson



Grumbles unanimously voted to chair Ozone Transport Commission; pollution from upwind states continues to significantly affect the quality of air that Marylanders breathe

BALTIMORE (June 13, 2017) – Maryland Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles has been selected to chair the Ozone Transport Commission, a 13-state, regional collaboration created under the federal Clean Air Act to control interstate smog.

Environmental regulators from the commission’s member states – representing six Republican governors, six Democratic governors and the Democratic mayor of Washington — voted unanimously on June 6 to name Secretary Grumbles chairman.

“Clean air and fair play for downwind communities and businesses are priorities for the Hogan Administration,” Secretary Grumbles said. “Seventy percent of our ozone problem is from upwind states. I am honored to chair a totally bipartisan coalition of state environmental regulators that will use science, law and policy to reduce interstate air pollution and advance cleaner energy and transportation choices.”

Ground-level ozone, or smog, has been one of Maryland’s most pervasive and challenging air pollution problems. Parts of some downwind states, including Maryland, would remain in violation of federal air quality standards even if they eliminated all of the pollution generated within their borders.

The Ozone Transport Commission is responsible for advising the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on interstate air pollution transport issues and for developing and implementing regional solutions to the problem of ground-level ozone in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. The Commission includes Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, Washington, D.C., New Jersey, New York, Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Vermont. Maryland has been a member since 1990.

The leadership position comes at a time when the Hogan Administration has been increasing its emphasis on interstate smog and regional collaboration to protect public health and level the regulatory playing field to benefit the state’s businesses. Unhealthy levels of ozone can irritate the respiratory system — causing coughing, throat irritation and chest pains and aggravating asthma and other chronic lung diseases. Ozone and other air pollutants have also been linked to premature death. In recent years, Maryland has been required to find deeper in-state emissions reductions to compensate for the pollution that comes from other states – placing a regulatory burden on Maryland’s business community, including small businesses.

In November 2016, the Maryland Department of the Environment filed one of the most comprehensive petitions in the history of the Clean Air Act with the Environmental Protection Agency to increase controls on 36 power plant units in five states (Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana). The petition requested the coal plants to follow the same types of standards and practices included in the Nitrogen Oxide regulations supported by Governor Hogan in 2015. The Department is also supporting petitions to expand the number of states included in the Ozone Transport Region. The state is boosting the use of clean cars and electric vehicle infrastructure and clean and renewable energy innovations, based on an aggressive package of environmental laws championed by Governor Hogan during the 2017 General Assembly.

The state is also a continuing and active member of important and related programs such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and the Transportation Climate Initiative.

The Department of the Environment encourages Marylanders to follow the department’s air quality forecasts and related recommendations for limiting outdoor activities and reducing air pollution when pollution levels rise. The forecasts are available through a variety of online resources such as AirNow, Clean Air Partners, the National Weather Service and on the Department of the Environment’s website at Air quality notifications can also be sent to your inbox by signing up for Clean Air Partners AirAlerts or AirNow’s EnviroFlash. If you have a smartphone, the Clean Air Partners and AirNow apps deliver forecasts and real-time air quality conditions for ozone and fine particles.

“Strong regulations and multi-state partnerships will help us keep the air clean and avoid ‘code orange’ health alert days in the future,” Secretary Grumbles said.

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