By Candia Dames
WASHINGTON – Maryland will not completely meet new federal air pollution controls set to be implemented as a result of a D.C. Circuit Court ruling Tuesday that upheld the standards, a state official said.
Rich McIntire, a Department of Environment spokesman, said Wednesday that Maryland has always supported tighter controls on pollutants that cause smog and respiratory ailments, but that the state “will have some areas that will not meet this eight-hour standard.”
McIntire said the state still needs to see details from the Environmental Protection Agency to determine how it will meet the more-stringent air quality guidelines.
But a study by the EPA last summer showed that ozone violations in Maryland would have skyrocketed under the new standards. The new standard limits ozone — the major component of smog — to an average of 0.08 parts per million (ppm) in an eight-hour period, compared to the current standard of 0.12 ppm in one hour.
In 2001, the state violated the old one-hour standard 22 times from April to October, considered ozone season by the EPA. When Maryland was measured against the new standard, the number of violations jumped to 214 during that period.
The number of bad air quality days in Maryland would also have jumped, from 10 under the old standard to 30 days under the new standard.
Kristeen Gaffney, an environmental scientist with the EPA, said the new standards give a better measure of air quality and are “more protective of public health.”
“The significance is EPA is concerned from a health perspective about exposure to ozone at lower levels over longer periods,” she said.
The new standards were proposed in 1997, but had been delayed by a court challenge by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and other industry groups. But Tuesday’s ruling gave the EPA the green light to begin enforcing the new standards.
EPA Administrator Christine Whitman said after the ruling that the EPA “now has a clear path to move forward to ensure that all Americans can breathe cleaner air.”
Industry officials said they were disappointed but “not terribly surprised by the ruling.” A spokesman for the Edison Electric Institute said it is important now for the EPA to spell out how it plans to implement the new rules.
“We will certainly do what we need to do,” said EEI spokesman Dan Riedinger.
But health and environmental groups immediately labeled the ruling a victory.
“The polluting industries were able to postpone these important public health protections for several years,” said Dan Shawhan, a Maryland Public Interest Research Group spokesman. “In the meantime, hundreds of Marylanders have died from pollution that these standards would have reduced.”
The ruling also clears the way for fine soot particles as small as 2.5 microns in diameter — largely the product of vehicle and power plant emissions — to be regulated. Proponents of the tougher regulations said that a human hair is about 100 microns thick, by comparison.
“The smaller the particle, the more likely it is to end up deeper into the lungs,” said Brian Fitzek, spokesman for the American Lung Association of Maryland.
According to the association, 50,000 children and 100,000 adults in Maryland suffer from asthma, 130,000 have chronic bronchitis and 40,000 have emphysema, all aggravated by soot particles and ozone.
Melanie Mayock, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Sierra Club, said the Washington and Baltimore regions are not now meeting health standards for ozone.
Environmentalists pointed to sprawl, saying that the state will only consistently meet new air-quality measures if it improves public transportation and controls everyday pollution caused by congestion.
“We just have a high population load in the area,” Fitzek said. “That translates into more electricity produced and more automobiles on the roads. That’s the formula for high air pollution.”
McIntire said part of Maryland’s problem is air pollution blowing in from Midwest polluters. Maryland wants the EPA to implement measures to limit this flow, McIntire said.
“If we continue to get pollution from other places, that’s going to hamper our efforts to meet new standards,” he said.