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EPA Approves Eastern MA and Southern NH Plans for Complying With Air Pollution Standards

Release Date: 12/03/2002
Contact Information: Peyton Fleming, EPA Press Office, 617-918-1008

BOSTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced that the agency has approved the Massachusetts and New Hampshire plans for coming into compliance with air pollution standards for the metropolitan Boston area. The plans detail steps the states are taking and will take in the future to ensure they meet smog-related pollution standards by 2007. The plans were approved by EPA's New England office on November 26.

The plans, developed by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the NH Department of Environmental Services, are focused on ensuring the states meet the health-based 1-hour outdoor air standard for ozone (smog) in the greater Boston metropolitan area, which includes all of eastern Massachusetts and a portion of southern New Hampshire. Ground level ozone, the main ingredient of smog, can cause serious breathing problems, aggravate asthma and other pre-existing lung diseases, and make more people susceptible to respiratory infection.

"Today's approval of these clean air plans for Massachusetts and New Hampshire marks another important step toward our shared goal of providing smog-free, clean air for all of New England," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England Office. "Our goal is to completely eliminate unhealthful levels of smog in the summer so children can safely play outside on all days and people with respiratory disease will not have difficulty breathing."

The plans includes such actions as:

    • vehicle inspection and maintenance programs that were put in place in the late 1990s;
    • cleaner-burning reformulated gasoline, first put into effect in 1995 and made more stringent in 2000;
    • vapor recovery requirements for gas pumps in place since the early 1990s;
    • substantial emission reduction requirements for nitrogen oxide (NOx) pollution – a major contributor to smog pollution – from power plants and other large industrial sources in the eastern United States. The requirements were put in place by a number of Northeastern states in 1999 and will be expanded to include 19 Midwest and Eastern states in 2004.
The Massachusetts and New Hampshire plans also rely on air pollution reductions resulting from stringent standards adopted by EPA for new cars, trucks and non-road vehicles such as construction equipment and gasoline-powered lawn and garden equipment. The new automobile standards, which will further reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by 77 percent for cars and 92 percent for trucks and sport utility vehicles, will kick into effect in 2004.

In addition, Massachusetts and New Hampshire will benefit from regulations adopted by states as part of EPA's Regional Transport of Ozone Rule, which requires 19 eastern states and the District of Columbia to address the regional transport of ground-level ozone through reductions in nitrogen oxides. Under the rule, the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island have adopted regulations requiring large sources of nitrogen oxides, including fossil-fuel fired power plants, to meet stringent caps on NOx emissions during May through September, starting in 2003. The states of Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia have adopted similar regulations which will cap NOx emissions starting in 2004. By 2004, NOx emissions from fossil-fuel fired power plants during May through September — the time of year when smog levels are highest – will be reduced by about 55 percent and will be capped at these levels in the future.

The approvals are the latest milestones in a process started by the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments. Throughout the plans' development, Massachusetts and New Hampshire worked closely with EPA, neighboring states, and business and industry organizations in identifying air pollution controls to help New England meet the national 1-hour standard for ozone. The Ozone Air Quality Plans approved by EPA covers all of eastern Massachusetts and portions of Hillsborough and Rockingham counties in New Hampshire. The Ozone Air Quality Plans for western Massachusetts and the State of Connecticut were approved by EPA in December 2000 and November 2001, respectively.

Throughout eastern Massachusetts, the results of the emission control programs in place are being observed. Air emissions in eastern Massachusetts of two key components that form ozone – volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides – were down between 1990 and 1999. Volatile organic compounds, mostly emitted by cars, trucks, paints and solvents, have dropped by 24 percent. Nitrogen oxides, mostly emitted by cars, trucks and fuel burning equipment such as electric power plants, have dropped by 7 percent. These will continue to decrease in the years ahead because of air quality regulations written by MA DEP.

Data on the 1-hour ozone standard also show significant improvement in Massachusetts. In the early 1980s, Massachusetts experienced as many as 35 days in a year when the 1-hour ozone standard was exceeded. In 2002, preliminary data indicate that there were only five days when the 1-hour ozone standard was exceeded. The plan approved today will continue this downward trend toward meeting the 1-hour ozone standard and should result in ozone levels below the standard by 2007.

In 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court made a landmark decision upholding a more stringent ozone standard, which is based on an 8-hour average. In 2002, the 8-hour ozone standard was exceeded on 29 separate days in Massachusetts, and further reductions in emissions and transport will be needed to achieve that standard, which will be implemented over the next several years.