WASHINGTON – Maryland drivers contribute less to smog levels than they may think, according to the American Automobile Association and state environmental officials.
In a report released Wednesday, the AAA said cars and light trucks account for less than 24 percent of the ground-level ozone in major cities, including the Baltimore and Washington regions.
The report, “Clearing the Air 1999,” said that other sources, such as power plants, commercial establishments, smokestack emissions and common products like paint and cleaning solvents, are responsible for an increasing share of the pollutants that cause ground-level ozone. AAA officials also pointed to other mobile sources of pollution, such as big trucks, buses, planes and lawnmowers.
Susan Pikrallidas, an AAA spokeswoman, said the report shows that cars are not the major culprit in smog problems.
“Governments . need to go beyond simply targeting passenger vehicles if they hope to make any real progress in further cutting the smog in our cities,” she said.
But Mitch McCalmon, vice president of government relations of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, said that while auto makers have cut pollution, reductions in industrial pollution should not be overlooked.
“A lot of effort has been made on both sides,” McCalmon said, pointing to reductions in “point-source” pollution by steel and chemical manufacturers.
He said that point sources like smokestacks are easier to regulate in terms of emissions because they are monitored closely and are visible contributors to the air quality. That is why they are often targeted, he said.
“It’s smokestack industries versus collective people,” McCalmon said. “Smokestacks are already regulated because there are fewer of them. It’s a single business with an address.”
The dispute between motorists and manufacturers is not new, said McCalmon, who said it is “somewhat traditional” to point fingers and not look at the real issues regarding pollution. He credits both sides with reducing emissions of volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides, the ingredients in the stew that is smog.
But he cautioned that “every bit more of reduction they try to achieve begins to cost more money in terms of technology cost, research and development. With that in mind, it doesn’t matter if it’s reduction from a point or mobile source.”
State officials Wednesday largely confirmed the AAA’s data for Maryland. Diane Franks, chief of the Maryland Department of Environment’s Air Quality Planning Division, said the state’s figures “match pretty well” with the AAA’s projections.
The state does not break out cars and light trucks when it tallies sources of pollution, instead including those vehicles with big trucks as “highway sources” of pollution.
Franks said highway sources accounted for 35 percent of ground-level ozone emissions in the Baltimore region in 1996, the last year for which the state has numbers. The region includes Baltimore City and Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Howard, Harford and Carroll counties.
In the Washington region — which includes Prince George’s, Montgomery, Charles, Calvert and Frederick counties — highway sources accounted for 32 percent of ground-level ozone emissions, Franks said.
In Cecil County, the only other clean-air “non-attainment area” in the state, highway sources accounted for 50 percent of emissions by contrast.
“Although cars and light trucks continue to be targeted for pollution reductions, in fact they’ve made the most progress of any source in cutting pollution,” Pikrallidas said in a prepared statement.