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DEPARTMENT OF THE ENVIRONMENT CLEAN AIR PROGRESS REPORT 2013 UPDATE Preliminary results of 2012 monitoring show continued improvements in air quality across Maryland

BALTIMORE, MD (May 1, 2013) -
The quality of the air across Maryland continues to show measurable signs of improvement, the Maryland Department of the Environment's review of preliminary monitoring results from 2012 shows.

The results show continued reductions in the amount of fine particle, or soot, pollution in counties throughout the State. Continued reductions were also seen in the amount of sulfur dioxide pollution and in mercury emissions from Maryland’s largest power plants. While Maryland has not yet met the federal health standard for ozone pollution, statistics show a decrease in recent years in the number of bad air days in comparison to hot weather days that can increase ozone levels.

The continued improvements come after actions taken in Maryland to reduce air pollution, including the Maryland Healthy Air Act, the toughest power plant emission law on the east coast. Because pollution from neighboring states contributes significantly to Maryland's air pollution, Maryland is taking actions to address this issue. Other measures that could lead to continued improvements in air quality include a proposal to lower vehicle emissions and lower the sulfur content of gasoline and a stricter national standard for mercury emissions from new power plants.

Reducing air pollution improves public health, and actions that reduce pollution can also help restore the Chesapeake Bay. Some programs reduce pollution by increasing fuel efficiency, which also helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. Governor Martin O’Malley has proclaimed April 29 – May 3 Air Quality Awareness Week in Maryland.

More Information
Preliminary results of 2012 air quality monitoring data show continued improvements in our State’s air quality thanks to decades of sustained efforts and the continued strong support of Maryland’s air quality programs by Governor Martin O’Malley. With Maryland’s implementation of the Healthy Air Act, the Clean Cars Act, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, energy conservation and renewable energy goals, the scientific evidence shows that Maryland has effective controls in place to address the air pollution generated in-State. However, the science also demonstrates clearly that Maryland cannot fully meet air quality standards that protect public health unless air pollution generated outside of our State’s borders is controlled. Research indicates that states upwind of Maryland are responsible for as much as 70 percent of Maryland’s current air quality problem. Therefore, reducing emissions in upwind states is the key to solving our air quality problems.
Core Facts
  • Ozone and fine particles are Maryland’s biggest air quality issues. Both pollutants are created from fuel-burning sources such as vehicles, electric utilities and industrial boilers. These pollutants can irritate the respiratory system causing coughing, throat irritation and chest pains. They are also linked to premature death.
  • Through a combination of State and federal actions, Maryland’s air quality has improved significantly.
  • Preliminary 2012 monitoring results show continued decreases in fine particle levels in counties across Maryland. All of these measurements -- from all monitoring stations in counties across Maryland -- meet   federal standards, including recently strengthened annual standards. Maryland was among a group of states that took successful legal action to require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue a new, strengthened annual air standard for fine particle, or soot, pollution to better protect public health.
  • Concentrations of some airborne toxic chemicals, emitted primarily from mobile sources, such as benzene, toluene and 1,3-butadiene, measured at monitoring stations in the Baltimore metropolitan area in 2012 are less than half of levels measured in 2000. The amount of hazardous air pollutants released from Maryland electrical power plants has been reduced by 89 percent since the implementation of the Maryland Healthy Air Act in 2009.
  • Sulfur dioxide pollution continued to decline in 2012, when levels for the State were less than a quarter of those recorded in 2008. In March, EPA proposed “Tier 3” emission and vehicle fuel standards that include lower levels of sulfur in gasoline, which would further reduce sulfur dioxide pollution.
  • The Maryland Clean Cars Program, adopted by the Maryland General Assembly in 2007, requires California’s stricter vehicle emission standards. These new car standards became effective in Maryland for model year 2011 vehicles, significantly reducing emissions of a number of pollutants, including volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides. The Clean Cars Program regulates emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. In Maryland, approximately one third of carbon dioxide emissions are emitted from cars.
  • Maryland has established monitoring stations near major roadways to obtain an even more detailed picture of the quality of our air.
  • Monitoring stations in Garrett and Washington Counties and Baltimore City recorded ozone levels that met health standards. In the summer of 2012, the temperature topped 90 degrees on 46 days at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, and the health standard for ground-level ozone was exceeded on 29 days in Maryland. In comparison, in 1995 the temperature topped 90 degrees on 51 days -- and the ozone standard was exceeded on 71 days. Hot weather is a significant factor in the formation of ground-level ozone, but the ratio of bad air days to temperature has declined over the years in Maryland.
  • Maryland has taken significant steps in controlling in-State air pollution sources. Governor O'Malley's leadership in implementing the Healthy Air Act, the Clean Cars Program, the Climate Action Plan and his continued support of improving our air quality is a major factor in this success.
  • Emissions reductions from the Maryland Healthy Air Act are occurring in two phases. The first phase, which occurred in the 2009-2010 timeframe, reduced emissions of nitrogen oxides by almost 70 percent and sulfur dioxide and mercury emissions by 80 percent. Those requirements are being met. In the second phase, which is occurring in the 2010-2013 timeframe, nitrogen oxides emissions will be reduced by about 75 percent, sulfur dioxide emissions will be reduced by 85 percent and 90 percent of mercury emissions will be controlled.
  • To accomplish these reductions, Maryland utilities have invested approximately $2.6 billion in pollution controls to meet the requirements of the Healthy Air Act.
  • Despite these actions, Maryland is not meeting ground-level ozone standards. In particular, one monitoring station, in Harford County, records significantly higher levels than all other stations in the State.
  • Pollution from neighboring states is the top contributor to Maryland’s continuing ground-level ozone problem. As much as 70 percent of Maryland’s air pollution comes from upwind states.
  • Addressing air pollutants from neighboring states is a priority for Maryland. Maryland is urging the EPA to adopt federal rules to reduce emissions from these states. Maryland is also working with other Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states to use selected provisions in the federal Clean Air Act to legally compel reductions in upwind contributing states.
  • Air pollution accounts for about a third of the nitrogen pollution affecting Maryland waterways, including the Chesapeake Bay. Reductions in nitrogen oxide emissions due to the Healthy Air Act have reduced the amount of nitrogen pollution to the Bay by an estimated 300,000 pounds a year.

  • Ozone is a gas that occurs in two layers of the atmosphere. Nitrogen oxide is emitted when fossil fuels are burned. Nitrogen oxide combines with volatile organic compounds to form ground-level ozone when cooked by the sun.
  • When ozone is up very high in the atmosphere it is considered “good” as it protects us from the sun’s ultra-violet rays, however when ozone occurs near ground-level it becomes harmful to human health and our environment.
  • Particle pollution (also called particulate matter or PM) is the term for a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. Some particles, such as dust, dirt, soot, or smoke are large or dark enough to be seen with the naked eye. Others are so small that they can not be seen by the naked eye.
  • Sulfur dioxide is produced by the burning of fossil fuels containing sulfur compounds. It is the most significant contributor to the problem of fine particles, which creates haze that decreases visibility and is linked to premature death and heart and lung problems.
  • Preliminary 2012 monitoring results are subject to quality review and possible corrections, though any corrections made to preliminary results in recent years have not been significant.
  • MDE's air monitoring results are viewed in relation to health-based standards for air quality as established by the EPA.

What You Can Do
  • Conserve energy by turning off lights and appliances when you leave a room.
  • Use energy-efficient appliances such as refrigerators, air conditioners, heat pumps and furnaces.
  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – this also conserves energy and reduces emissions.
  • When possible, walk, bike or use public transportation to get around town.
  • Avoid letting your car idle – this will reduce toxins and other pollutants from being released into the air.
  • Get regular engine tune ups and car maintenance checkups.
  • Carpool or use public transit to get to work.
  • Shop with reusable bags instead of using paper or plastic.
  • Plant trees in locations around your home to provide shade in the summer.
  • Follow air quality forecasts and plan your outdoor activity as appropriate. Put off mowing the lawn or painting and reduce driving on bad air days.

“Maryland has been a leader in national efforts to improve air quality for nearly 40 years, and these preliminary monitoring results for 2012 show we are continuing to make progress. But our research shows that states upwind of Maryland are responsible for about 70 percent of Maryland’s air quality problem. Addressing air pollutants from neighboring states is a priority for Maryland. ”

--Robert M. Summers, Secretary, Maryland Department of the Environment

“Breathing clean air is something most of us take for granted. But if you have respiratory concerns such as asthma, poor air quality is something that can’t be ignored. We all make choices everyday that can help reduce air pollution.”

--Robert M. Summers, Secretary, Maryland Department of the Environment

Additional Information

Samantha Kappalman

Jay Apperson

(410) 537-3003

MDE Mission
Our mission is to protect and restore the quality of Maryland's air, water and land resources, while fostering smart growth, a thriving and sustainable economy and healthy communities.