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New Jersey Making Progress Toward Clean Air

Release Date: 12/01/1999
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(#99190) New York, New York -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today proposed to approve New Jersey's plan demonstrating that it will meet the current 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 pollution reductions, New Jersey will meet the standard by the required dates of 2005 in the southern portion of the state and 2007 in the northern portion. 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 Jersey's borders, as well as federal controls to stem pollution that migrates to New Jersey from other states."

"The proposed approval of this plan demonstrates that New Jersey is on the right track and its health- based goals are attainable," said New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman. "We're committed to instituting the clean air plans we need to make New Jersey the best place to live, work and raise a family, and we urge states outside of our region to similarly shoulder their share of responsibilities."

Key state and federal programs implemented within New Jersey 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 Jerseyans. In 1980, there were 53 days in New Jersey when the one-hour smog standard was violated, compared to 10 days in 1999. The EPA's finding that the state will meet the ozone standard by its deadlines 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 Jersey and 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.

"The Department of Environmental Protection has an aggressive NOx control program. We're confident we can achieve further reductions, and fulfill our obligations to protect the public and the environment," said NJDEP Commissioner Bob Shinn. "But it's clear we need the support of other states to make this happen, and we hope the court issues can be quickly resolved so we can continue our progress in improving air quality here in New Jersey."

"New Jersey has already adopted its nitrogen oxide limits, 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 Jersey and its neighbors have shown their willingness to do what it takes, including a promise to adopt even more pollution control measures." Today's approval is also contingent upon New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York 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 the required dates. New Jersey has committed to these cuts, and must choose which measures it will use to achieve them by October 31, 2001.

Today's plan, submitted to EPA by NJDEP, 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 Jersey 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 Jersey. We've made 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