Maryland Joins Multi-State Petition To Address “Upwind” Air Pollution

A December 9 Baltimore Sun B’More Green blog post reports that Maryland has joined with seven other states to petition the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help curb air pollution generated “upwind” by states in the Midwest and South.  In the post, an official from the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) states that as much as 70 percent of Maryland’s ozone pollution is generated by other states and removing a ton of air pollution can cost up to $10,000 a ton in Maryland but could cost the “upwind” states as little as $500 per ton .

[Maryland and seven other states] petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to require nine “upwind” states — Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia — to join a commission that would require those states to curb pollution from their coal-burning power plants, motor vehicles and industries, which can foul air hundreds of miles away.

“For the sake of our state and our people, we need upwind states to act more aggressively to reduce the pollutants that they put in the air from their own states,” Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley said in a statement taped before he left last week for a trade trip to Latin and South America.

Also petitioning the EPA are Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont.

If EPA grants the petition, the nine Midwest and Southern states would be added to the “Ozone Transport Region,” created under 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act to address summertime smog in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. Twelve states from Maine to Virginia plus the District of Columbia now work jointly through an interstate commission to lower pollution across their two regions, though Virginia only limits emissions in its Washington suburbs, not the whole state.

A December 11 Cumberland Times-News article also reports on the petition:

Ozone concentrations in Western Maryland border areas, which are upwind from the rest of the state, have been measured at well-above federal limits, MDE officials said.  …

Maryland would remain in violation of federal standards because of pollution blowing in from other states, even if Maryland produced no emissions. Estimates are that between 70 and 98 percent of ozone air pollution is blown in from the upwind states, MDE officials say. “Preliminary results from 2012 air sampling and emissions records show continued improvement in Maryland’s air quality.  …

“States added as members of the [Ozone Transport Region] would be required to take additional steps to reduce air pollution that has been found to significantly affect downwind states. These steps can include … having state regulators require sources to meet emissions limits developed by the application of controls that are reasonably available considering current technologies and cost,” according to the MDE. The states would also be required to take other actions to reduce pollution.

The Times-News article also notes that EPA has up to 18 months to review and decide on the petition.

A December 16 Frederick News-Post editorial speaks in favor of the petition and in favor of overturning a United States Court of Appeals case that limited the ability of the EPA to regulate cross-state air pollution:

The ozone levels aren’t benign, either. A Massachusetts Institute of Technology study released in August showed that when it comes to deaths related to air pollution, Frederick’s rates were almost as high as Baltimore’s, and that’s in a state where more residents die prematurely due to long-term exposure than any other.

Because of that, we support this petition, which is allowed under provisions in the Clean Air Act “if there is reason to believe that interstate transport significantly contributes to a violation of a National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ozone in the transport region,” according to information on the MDE’s website.

Upwind states aren’t just relying on the petition, however. They’re hoping the Supreme Court will review in their favor the 2012 U.S. Court of Appeals Ruling that vacated the EPA’s cross-state air pollution rule. That ruling addressed air pollution from power plants that contributes to unhealthy air in downwind states, according to MDE.