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EPA Announces that Maine Meets Air Quality Health Standards

Release Date: 12/11/2006
Contact Information: Dave Deegan, (617) 918-1017

Release date: 12/11/06
(Boston, Mass. - Dec. 11, 2006) - EPA announced today that the entire State of Maine now has air quality that meets the federal national ambient air quality standards for ozone. In addition, Maine has also met the applicable Clean Air Act requirements for controlling the air emissions that contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone.


    Based on these accomplishments, EPA has declared Maine as achieving the ozone health standard in areas that were previously violating the standard. This is formally known as having been redesignated to attainment with EPA's health-protective ozone standards.

    Specifically, two areas in Maine have been redesignated to attainment, which had been the only remaining areas in the state not meeting air quality health standards. The two areas are the Portland area, which includes the coastal portions of York, Cumberland, and Sagadahoc Counties, and the Midcoast area, which includes the coastal portions of Hancock, Knox, Lincoln and Waldo Counties.

    When EPA approved the Maine request to redesignate, EPA also approved a maintenance plan submitted by the Maine Dept. of Environmental Protection showing how coastal Maine will remain in attainment for ozone. The maintenance plan prohibits Maine from removing air pollution controls already in place without replacing those controls with other measures that are just as effective in lowering ozone levels. Furthermore, the entire State of Maine remains part of the ozone transport region (OTR) that includes a group of northeastern states that work together to develop regional control strategies to reduce ozone levels.

    “Ground-level ozone is a significant public health concern, but thanks to federal and state efforts, Maine’s air quality has improved over the past decade," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA’s New England Office. “Our redesignation for all of Maine meeting the ozone air quality standards means that Maine citizens are breathing cleaner, healthier air. People can be proud of this accomplishment.”

    Cars, trucks and buses are a primary source of the NOx and VOC pollutants that make ozone also known as smog. Fossil fuel burning at electric power plants, particularly on hot days, also generates significant smog-forming NOx pollution. Gas stations, print shops, household products like paints and cleaners, as well as lawn and garden equipment, also contribute to ozone formation.

    Warm summer temperatures aid the formation of ground-level ozone, which is considered unhealthy when concentrations exceed 0.08 parts per million (ppm) over an 8-hour period. Poor air quality affects everyone, but some people are particularly sensitive to ozone, 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, aggravate asthma and other pre-existing lung diseases and make people more susceptible to respiratory infection.

    The federal Clean Air Act has led to significant improvements in ozone air quality over the past 20 years. In 1983, New England had 90 unhealthy days due to ground-level ozone, compared with 43 days in 2002 and 26 days this year.

    In Maine last summer there were two days where ozone concentrations at one air quality monitor exceeded the standard. EPA regulations allow a small number of days each year over the ozone standard for an area, while still designating the area as attainment. Maine has met this requirement.

    Nationally and regionally EPA has taken a number of steps to further reduce air pollution. EPA emission standards for new vehicles will result in cars that are 77 percent to 95 percent cleaner by 2009 (phase-in began in 2004) and cleaner-burning gasoline that contains 90 percent less sulfur. Also, EPA’s clean diesel trucks and buses program will reduce NOx emissions from new trucks and buses by over 90 percent beginning in 2007. In addition, EPA has issued the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) to help reduce the transport of air pollution from power plants across state boundaries. When fully implemented, CAIR will reduce power plant NOx emissions by over 60 percent and sulfur dioxide emissions by over 70 percent from 2003 levels.

    In 2004, EPA formally designated areas that are not complying with the 8-hour ozone standard. Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, are still out of compliance with the ozone standard. These states must submit plans by June 2007 that will outline how they will meet the standard by the end of 2009.

    More information on ozone pollution in New England (epa.gov/ne/airquality/index.html)