WASHINGTON – Maryland is targeting consumer products, from deodorant and perfume to gasoline cans and paint, in its latest effort to bring ozone levels down to federal standards in 2005.
A plan submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency in March says the state will require manufacturers of those products to lower amounts of volatile organic-compounds, such as propane and methane, that are known contributors to ozone.
The plan also calls on the state to increase fines on major pollution sources — including power plants, manufacturers and public institutions — from $37 per ton of excess emissions to “about $5,000” a ton, in the words of one state official.
But the main focus of the plan is cleaning up consumer products, a step that proponents say begins to hold everyone responsible for air quality instead of placing all the blame on sources like coal-fired power plants. The consumer-product rules would decrease ozone by about 19 tons per day.
“The reductions from one product and one person is negligible, but when you multiply the number by a population, it’s pretty big,” said Thomas Frankiewicz, program manager for the Ozone Transport Commission.
The commission, a group of 13 Northeast states working to reduce the region’s air pollution, did a study in 2000 that said reducing volatile organics was one way for states to fight ozone. So far Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania and New York have used the study as a cornerstone for their air-quality plans.
While the proposed higher fines on major polluters faces stiff opposition from industry and commerce groups, the consumer-product rule has raised surprisingly little complaint from manufacturers, many of whom will have to reformulate products to continue selling in Maryland.
“The companies understand the importance of environmental factors such as clean air and the fact that we have a role in that,” said Joe Yost, director of state affairs for the Consumer Specialty Products Association.
“We’re willing to make a contribution to achieving that (clean air),” he said. “The companies want to do the right thing. It’s not the easiest or cheapest thing to do. But they’ll do it.”
One reason they are not complaining is that many companies already went through a similar process in California, the first state to make manufacturers reduce volatile compounds in their products, Yost said. Companies will simply shift their reformulated products to Maryland if new standards are imposed here.
Because big companies generally sell on a regional basis, Yost said, the entire western United States benefited when California limited volatile organics in consumer products. If the same thing happens in Maryland, it will benefit the entire Northeast, he said.
Some changes have already taken effect.
“You can’t have the same gas can in your garage that you had 15 years ago,” said Jeff Stehr, a meteorologist at the University of Maryland. The new cans do not allow as many vapors to escape as old cans.
The new gas cans and consumer products are examples of “low-hanging fruit” the state has been picking for the last 30 years to reduce ozone, said Parker Dean, a chief of Air and Radiation Management at the state Department of the Environment.
Both Stehr and Dean said that working on “narrow little categories” will reduce ozone and that the new limits on consumer products would lower ozone — but they probably will not help enough.
“We don’t think we’ll meet the (federal) standard, but we will reduce emissions,” Dean said.
“I don’t know if there’s any scenario that I’ve seen currently on the table that will put Maryland and D.C. in attainment,” Stehr echoed.
They also noted that the new plan is only designed to help the state meet federal rules for one-hour ozone attainment — or the average concentration of ozone in an hour. Stricter federal rules are schedule to take effect in 2007, Stehr said.
And smog drifting in from Midwestern coal-fired power plants will make it difficult for Maryland to ever reach federal standards, Stehr said, unless the federal government designs a cap system to limit air pollution nationally.
But Stehr added that each state’s attempt to reduce pollution adds up.
“All of these things have to be taken as pieces of the puzzle. But if you look at any one of them they will seem just absurd, just too small,” he said. “But if you put all of them together, if each state keeps pushing, then we just might get there.”
-30- CNS 04-02-04