FOR RELEASE AT 11:00 AM
August 14, 1997
Douglas Hattaway, 271-2121
Charles Knox, 271-2975
New Hampshire Demands that EPA Crack Down on Ozone Polluters Joins with Other Northeast States Seeking Quick, Effective Controls on Dirty Upwind Sources
Concord, NH -- Despite reducing ozone-producing pollution from in-state electric power plants by half over the last two years, New Hampshire is having one of its worst summers for ozone in recent memory. That is what can happen when most of the ozone measured in our state comes from "upwind" air pollution which is carried by prevailing winds blowing into New Hampshire.
New Hampshire has been hampered in its efforts to meet federally mandated air quality standards and deadlines because of this phenomenon of air pollution transport. So Governor Jeanne Shaheen today authorized the Department of Environmental Services (DES) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to file a legal petition to force the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to impose stringent controls on big upwind polluters that contribute significantly to New Hampshire's air quality problems. In doing so, New Hampshire joins with other Northeast states that face similar struggles under the Clean Air Act, trying to clean up the already-dirty air being blown or "transported" toward them. States accompanying New Hampshire in this action include Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania.
"When you can climb Mt. Washington in New Hampshire and see smog blown in from the Midwest, it's clearly time for a national crackdown on air pollution. Our petition says that it's time to address the major sources of pollution that are fouling our air and affecting the health of our people. We've done our part in New Hampshire to cut down on emissions, and it's time for the EPA to get tough on major polluters upwind," said Governor Shaheen.
New Hampshire's petition was filed under Section 126 of the Clean Air Act, which allows a state to request pollution reductions from out-of-state sources that contribute significantly to its air quality problems. In writing this section of the law, Congress recognized that some states may have difficulty meeting Clean Air Act requirements due to upwind sources of pollution that are outside their jurisdictions and Congress provided the Section 126 petition process as a formal way to remedy this problem. The petition builds on the work of the Ozone Transport Assessment Group (OTAG), a multi-stakeholder, two-year consensus-building effort of the 37 eastern-most states. OTAG recently concluded that nitrogen oxide (NOx) reductions of up to 85 percent from power plants would be necessary to address the problem of transported ozone in the eastern United States.
"New Hampshire participated quite actively in the ground-breaking, multi-state OTAG process," said DES Commissioner Robert W. Varney. "After investing so much time and effort to secure a constructive conclusion to OTAG, it is critical that EPA acts on its recommendations in a way that minimizes delay and maximizes cost-effective environmental benefit. Today's Section 126 petition is a formal legal filing which goes as far as the State can to ensure that EPA delivers on OTAG's promise."
Many power plants outside the Northeast have not installed significant pollution controls because they are located in rural areas that meet the current ozone standard. Plants were exempted from controls during the drafting of the Clean Air Act because it was assumed that they would soon retire. However, many of these plants are still operating and plan to continue for the foreseeable future. By comparison, power plants in New Hampshire have made substantial reductions in nitrogen oxides and will be required to do even more in the next two years. "It's time for this inequity to end," said Varney.
"If this 126 petition is successful, emissions from upwind sources will be controlled at least five years sooner than they otherwise would," offered Varney, "and the sooner we can reduce the suffering of asthmatics and others with respiratory ailments, the better. Every New Hampshire citizen deserves to breathe clean air, and it's time for the victims of transported air pollution to exercise their rights."
Under the Clean Air Act, EPA has 60 days to hold a public hearing and will respond to New Hampshire's petition within two to six months. If the EPA agrees with the petition, it will establish emission reduction requirements for the dirty power plants that must be met within three years.
New Hampshire's section 126 petition asks EPA to secure large reductions from utility and industrial boilers that emit 10 tons or more of NOx per day (roughly the size of a small power plant) over much of the eastern half of the United States. The pollution sources which the State identified through air quality modeling as contributing significantly to ozone levels in New Hampshire stretch from the Mississippi River Valley to the Atlantic Ocean and are north of the Carolinas and Tennessee.