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New York Making Progress Toward Clean Air

Release Date: 12/01/1999
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(#99198) New York, New York -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed to approve New York State's plan demonstrating that it will meet the federal health-based standard for smog concentrations averaged over a one-hour period. Smog can cause acute respiratory problems, aggravate asthma, reduce lung capacity and inflame lung tissue and impair the body's immune system. By using a combination of state and federal programs to cut air pollution, as well as committing to additional reductions, New York will meet this standard by the required date of 2007. The plan shows that programs designed to cut volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOx), which combine in sunlight to form ground-level ozone or smog, have been largely successful, but further progress is needed.

"Meeting the one-hour ozone standard by the deadline is an important step toward cleaner air, but our job is not done," said Jeanne M. Fox, EPA Region 2 Administrator. "In order to continue the progress toward healthy air, we will need more controls within New York's borders, as well as federal controls to stem pollution that migrates to New York from other states."

"Under Governor Pataki's leadership, New York State has led the nation in fighting air pollution both inside and outside our borders by developing one of the most comprehensive and stringent air pollution control programs in the country," New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner John P. Cahill said. "Today's announcement by the EPA validates New York's clean air program and reaffirms Governor Pataki's commitment to protecting the air we breathe by aggressively pursuing innovative ways to fight air pollution."

State and federal programs implemented within New York State, such as requirements for the use of cleaner fuels and cleaner cars, establishment of an enhanced vehicle inspection and maintenance and controls on industries have resulted in cleaner air for New Yorkers. In 1980, there were 69 days when the one-hour smog standard was violated in the New York metropolitan area compared with 16 days in 1999. EPA's finding that the state will meet the ozone standard by 2007 assumes that critical federal pollution control programs like the Agency's proposal to cut emissions from new vehicles and to introduce a low-sulfur fuel that will burn cleaner to cut emissions from newer and older cars will be implemented. The demonstration also includes limits set by EPA on nitrogen oxides or NOx for 22 states in the Midwest, South and Northeast. The nitrogen oxide limits are vital because air pollution does not respect state boundaries and pollution from one state affects another. Without limits on pollution from midwestern and southern states, New York State and other northeastern states will not meet the one-hour standard. The EPA action to control NOx was challenged by certain industries and has been stayed pending further action by the U.S. Court of Appeals.

"New York has already adopted its nitrogen oxide limits and has, in fact, gone further than EPA required, but these limits must also be imposed on the Midwest and South in order for northeastern states to meet our one-hour smog standard," said Fox. "New York and other northeastern states have shown their willingness to do what that it takes, including a promise to adopt even more pollution control measures."

Today's approval is also contingent upon New York, New Jersey and Connecticut implementing programs to cut smog-forming chemicals by an additional 4 to 5 percent in order to meet the one- hour standard by 2007. New York has committed to these cuts, and must choose which measures it will use by October 31, 2001.

Today's plan, submitted to EPA by NYSDEC, is related to the existing one-hour smog standard. In July 1997, EPA adopted a new standard for smog concentrations averaged over an eight-hour period, which will require further pollution cuts. This standard, based on hundreds of peer-reviewed health studies, was set to better reflect the health effects of smog. By achieving the one-hour standard, states are making good progress toward meeting this new, more protective eight-hour standard. The new standard is being challenged in court, along with the recent EPA action to control nitrogen oxide emissions from 22 states stretching from just west of the Mississippi east to the Atlantic and from Tennessee and Georgia north to Maine.

"These legal challenges jeopardize EPA's abilities to carry out its mandate under the federal Clean Air Act to protect public health," Fox added. "New York has stood firmly with EPA on both the new air standards and the subsequent action to place further controls on nitrogen oxides in 22 states, including New York. We've made so much progress in the past 25 years, but it will take more to achieve clean healthy air for all Americans."

For more information contact:

Mary Mears, Press Office
EPA Region 2
290 Broadway
NY, NY 10007-1866
Voice: 212-637-3669 FAX: 212-637-5046 E-Mail: mears.mary@epamail.epa.gov