RHODE ISLAND, MASSACHUSETTS and the other six current members of the Ozone Transportation Region have petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to add nine upwind states to the air-quality region. Above, a map of current and proposed Ozone Transportation Region states.
COURTESY MARYLAND DEPARTMENT OF THE ENVIRONMENT
RHODE ISLAND, MASSACHUSETTS and the other six current members of the Ozone Transportation Region have petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to add nine upwind states to the air-quality region. Above, a diagram depicting the prevailing winds that blow air pollution into the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions from Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.
PROVIDENCE – Rhode Island has joined seven other states, including Massachusetts and Connecticut, in petitioning the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to require nine states upwind of the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions to reduce air pollution generated within their borders.
According to a release from Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee’s office, millions of residents in the eight petitioning states are exposed to unhealthy levels of ozone formed by airborne pollutants carried northeast from Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.
“Our goal is to eliminate Ozone Alert Days in Rhode Island,” said Chafee in a prepared statement. “Despite aggressive state and regional efforts to reduce ozone-causing emissions within our borders, Rhode Islanders still face bad-air days each and every summer because of air pollutants from upwind states. Stronger controls, including the expansion of the Ozone Transport Region, are needed to level the playing field and improve air quality in downwind states such as Rhode Island.”
Under Section 176A of the federal Clean Air Act, states can petition the EPA to add any state to an air-quality region such as the Ozone Transportation Region if there is reason to believe the state in question is the source of pollution that violates air-quality standards elsewhere. States added to the Ozone Transportation Region would have to take actions consistent with the air-pollution efforts of the downwind states through available control technologies and reliance on cleaner fuels.
The eight-state petition would require that the nine upwind states be added to the Ozone Transportation Region. The EPA administrator is required to approve or disapprove the petition within 18 months.
The eight states filing the petition with the EPA include most of the current members of the Ozone Transportation Region – Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. Maine, New Jersey and Pennsylvania did not sign the petition.
“Massachusetts and our partner states have already implemented significant air-pollution control measures that have dramatically cut ozone pollution from localized sources,” said Mass. Gov. Deval L. Patrick. “However, ozone-causing pollutants transported from upwind states cross our borders and pose threats to public health and safety, our economic vitality and our overall quality of life.”
The petition comes the day before the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear a case to determine the fate of a related EPA regulation, the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which would impose pollution restrictions on 27 Midwest and Southern states whose coal pollution contributes to ozone formation in East Coast states.
High ozone levels can irritate the respiratory system, causing coughing, throat irritation and chest pains and aggravate asthma and other chronic lung diseases, according to a news release announcing the eight-state petition. The petitioning states cited “decades of inaction” by the nine upwind states, during which time they claim to have spent tens of billions of dollars to reduce their own air emissions.
“Emissions from power plants and factories in upwind states have a dramatic impact on ozone levels in Rhode Island’s air,” said R.I. Department of Environmental Management Director Janet Coit. “According to an EPA analysis, more than 80 percent of elevated ozone levels in Rhode Island air are caused by pollutants that are emitted in upwind states and carried into our state by prevailing winds.”
The eight petitioning states estimate that the cost of removing an additional ton of pollution in their states is between $10,000 to $40,000, compared with as little as $500 a ton in upwind states, where “even some basic control technologies have not been installed.”
“We applaud Governor Chafee for working to protect the health of Rhode Island families from out-of-state pollution,” said Abel Collins, manager of the Rhode Island chapter of the Sierra Club environmental organization. “Environmental Protection Agency data shows that in many parts of Eastern states, like Rhode Island, more than half the harmful smog and air pollution associated with coal plants originates from out of state. By working together to protect our families from out-of-state pollution, these eight governors are showing a commitment to public health and a readiness to lead our nation away from the dirty energy sources of the past toward a clean, renewable energy future.”