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EPA Identifies New England Areas out of Compliance with More-protective 'Smog' Standard; Area Includes All of Rhode Island, Which Will Need to Come into Compliance by June 2010
Release Date: 04/15/04
Contact Information: Contact: David Deegan, EPA Press Office, (617) 918-1017
For Immediate Release: April 15, 2004; Release # 04-04-22
BOSTON - The US Environmental Protection Agency today announced its final designations for parts of New England that are out of compliance with the agency's health-based eight-hour standard for ground-level ozone air pollution, commonly referred to as smog.
The so-called nonattainment designations, based on the results of air quality monitoring data collected across New England between 2001 and 2003, show that all of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut and parts of southern and coastal New Hampshire and Maine do not meet the more health-protective eight-hour ozone standard.
In New England, the new nonattainment designations are nearly identical to the areas that were violating the agency's one-hour ozone standard up until today – the exception being slight modifications in portions of Maine and New Hampshire. See attached maps of New England for details. Many other areas of the country previously in attainment were listed today as nonattainment areas for the first time.
States with nonattainment areas must submit plans by June 2007 that outline how they will reduce pollution levels so they will meet the eight-hour standard. The deadline for meeting the standard will range from 2007 to 2010, depending on the severity of the ozone problem. All of the non-attainment areas in New England states, except Maine, will have a compliance deadline of June 2010.
"These new designations represent an important step in re-tooling our air quality programs so that New Englanders are better and more thoroughly protected from ground-level smog pollution," said Robert W. Varney, Regional Administrator of EPA's New England Office. "EPA will be working closely with states in the coming months to ensure that emissions are reduced all across the country for the benefit of New England's air quality."
Varney said the agency will also continue extensive air monitoring to track the latest pollution trends, including $13.8 million of funding to the region's six states last year to support air monitoring stations and other air quality efforts.
Today's announcement is part of a package of Clean Air Rules the Bush Administration is adopting this year aimed at such public health threats as diesel exhaust and fine particle pollution. Together, these rules will produce dramatic air quality improvements over the next 15 years.
Ground-level ozone pollution affects everyone, but some people are particularly sensitive to it, including children and adults who are active outdoors and people with respiratory diseases such as asthma. Exposure to elevated ozone levels can cause serious breathing problems and aggravate asthma and other pre-existing lung diseases.
Asthma rates in New England are significantly higher than the rest of the country. According to a January 2004 study by the New England Asthma Regional Council, nearly one of every five households with children in the region had at least one child that has been diagnosed with asthma. Overall, more than 400,000 children in New England – 12.3 percent – suffered from asthma at some point in their childhoods, according to the study. All six of the New England states have childhood asthma rates above 10 percent.
Under the agency's revised standard, ozone levels are considered unhealthy when average concentrations exceed .08 parts per million over an eight hour period. EPA adopted the eight-hour standard after research showed that lower levels of ozone exposure over longer periods of time posed health risks not addressed in the one-hour standard.
Monitoring data collected around New England shows there has been a 21 percent drop in eight-hour ozone concentrations between 1983 and 2002. The reduction is the result of various measures by EPA and the states in recent years to curb smog-forming pollutants such as nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from power plants, cars, trucks, buses and other sources.
Still, many parts of New England continue to see unhealthy ozone levels, especially in the summer when sunlight and hot temperatures react with NOx and VOCs to form smog. Last summer there were 17 days when ozone levels exceeded the eight-hour standard. In 2002, a hotter summer, there were 43 unhealthy days in New England.
"EPA is taking numerous actions to further reduce smog pollution, including tougher emission limits for power plants in the eastern US and tougher tailpipe emission limits for new cars, SUVs and other light-duty trucks," Varney said. "These federal actions, together with continued state and local efforts, will help us achieve our goal of safe and clean air for all of New England's residents."
Effective this year, the tighter pollution standards for new vehicles contain emission limits that are 77 to 95 percent cleaner than vehicles already on the road. Tighter power plant controls for the six New England states and 13 other states upwind of New England, as well as the District of Columbia, will reduce nitrogen oxide pollution by about 600,000 tons this year.
For more information on today's announcement, visit the following agency web sites at https://www.epa.gov/ozonedesignations/ or https://www.epa.gov/ne/topics/air/airquality.html .
Background on Rhode Island
Last summer, based on air quality measured in Rhode Island, Governor Carcieri made a recommendation to EPA that the entire state be designated nonattainment for the 8-hour ozone standard. Today, EPA is announcing it agrees with the Governor's recommendation. The agency is also classifying the nonattainment area in Rhode Island as moderate. Rhode Island will now need to develop a plan which includes any new additional local control strategies designed to supplement state and federal control strategies already in place. Rhode Island must submit this plan to EPA for approval by June 2007. Rhode Island will need to meet the 8-hour ozone standard by June 2010.
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