States Urge Stiffer Anti-pollution Laws

November 06, 2009|By James B. Hale | James B. Hale,Capital News Service

Twelve states, including Maryland, and the District of Columbia urged the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday to adopt more rigorous national policies so they can meet federal air pollution reduction requirements for the region.

The Ozone Transport Commission approved a statement that said states will have trouble meeting air pollution reduction goals on time without tougher national laws. The commission comprises 12 Northeastern states and the District of Columbia, and was formed by the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act.

Ted Aburn, director of the Maryland Department of the Environment's Air and Radiation Management Administration, said though many states on the commission have made strides in cleaning the air, meeting EPA requirements is difficult when a lot of the pollution comes from other states.

"On our worst days, up to 70 percent of our problem comes from an upwind area, which we have no control over," Aburn said. "So to continue making progress in Maryland, we not only need to do the right thing within our border, we need to get help from the EPA to ensure things take place in" neighboring states.

The statement asked that the EPA put harsher restrictions on pollution sources such as industrial boilers, consumer products and asphalt paving. It said the rules are necessary to meet the air quality requirements set forth by the Clean Air Act.

Cathy Milbourn, senior press officer for the EPA, said the agency is working on programs to reduce pollution. "We will continue to work with the Ozone Transport Commission and our state partners to improve air quality," she said.

The commission sent out a joint letter with organizations from Midwestern states in September that first suggested that the EPA reconsider the Clean Air Interstate Rule, which calls for air pollutant reductions in 31 states in the eastern half of the country and the District.

Commission members said the EPA needs to include every state that contributes significantly to air pollution, not just the Eastern states. With the combined efforts of contributing states, the commission could make more progress, they said.

After the EPA failed to meet their expectations, the commission voted on a stronger, official statement.

In an earlier interview, Aburn said the Maryland Department of the Environment has worked to reduce the amount of pollution from sources such as factories and cars. Programs that install devices that filter emissions from smokestacks and other pollution sources have shown progress in the past decade, he said.

Gina McCarthy, the EPA's assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, agreed that in order to make real change, the EPA and the states need to work together to get the "biggest bang for the buck" in the future.

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