CHRISTIE ADMINISTRATION ANNOUNCES ATTAINMENT OF KEY EPA AIR POLLUTON HEALTH STANDARD IN METROPOLITAN AREAS
MILESTONE MEANS ALL OF NEW JERSEY MEETS FEDERAL STANDARD FOR FINE PARTICLES
(13/P82) TRENTON – In another positive step for air quality in New Jersey, the Christie Administration today announced that the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has notified the state that New Jersey’s metropolitan areas are in compliance with federal standards for fine particles, a type of pollutant that can cause serious health problems, especially in vulnerable populations.
This action means all of New Jersey’s counties for the first time meet federal health standards for this air pollutant.
“This is a major milestone for New Jersey and for the health of our residents, especially the young, the elderly, and those with chronic respiratory conditions who are particularly at risk to this pollutant,” said Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner (DEP) Bob Martin. “This is a result of the Christie Administration’s continued commitment to protecting and enhancing the state’s environment, including taking aggressive steps to control sources of pollution within New Jersey’s borders and fighting out-of-state sources of pollution that impact our air quality.”
Specifically, the EPA has notified the state that counties that are part of the state’s two major metropolitan areas meet the daily and annual health standards for fine particles, also known as Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5. The attainment status will become effective upon publication in the Federal Register.
In the New York metropolitan region, those counties in attainment are Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Passaic, Somerset and Union. In the Philadelphia region, those counties are Burlington, Camden and Gloucester. The eight remaining New Jersey counties already meet the EPA’s health standards for fine particles.
Fine particles are two and one half microns or less in width, or approximately 1/30th the width of a human hair. According to EPA, fine particles may pose the greatest health risks of all air pollutants because they can lodge deeply into the lungs.
Exposure to fine particles can cause short-term health effects such as eye, nose, throat and lung irritation, coughing, sneezing, runny nose and shortness of breath. Exposure to fine particles can also affect lung function and worsen medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease.
The state manages air quality with ambient air monitoring, inventories of sources, emission reduction plans, rules, permits, stack testing, air quality modeling and risk assessment, vehicle testing, inspections and enforcement.
“We have worked tirelessly to control emissions from a variety of sources, including coal-fired power plants, diesel engines and motor vehicles,” Commissioner Martin said. “At the same time, we have become a national leader in the development of renewable energy, while promoting greater use of cleaner burning natural gas. We are confident that, as a result of our sound policies, we will continue to meet the standard for fine particles into the future, as we continue to make progress in reducing the pollutants that cause ozone smog.”
In addition to addressing in-state sources of these pollutants, the Christie Administration has taken on out-of-state sources, notably winning an unprecedented victory with the EPA’s approval of petition forcing a coal-fired power plant in Portland, Pa. to drastically reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide.
This plant, operated by GenOn REMA, has been a major source of sulfur dioxides to northern New Jersey. Sulfur dioxides and nitrogen oxides from coal-burning power plants convert to fine particles as they are transported by wind currents. The Administration recently secured an agreement that will result in the permanent cessation of the use of coal at this facility in 2014.
The DEP also has participated in lawsuits against owners of the Homer City Station plant and against Allegheny Energy Inc., to cut massive emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide pouring into New Jersey from those western Pennsylvania plants.
Additional steps taken by Governor Christie to improve air quality in New Jersey include:
- Adopting a policy of not allowing new coal-fired power plants to be built in New Jersey, and ensuring that additional generation comes from clean energy sources.
- Mandating 2015 closure or latest technology upgrades to polluting “peaker units”' during high energy demand days.
- Approving a pilot program to reduce diesel emissions from big construction vehicles at state construction sites.
- Completing retrofits or replacement of diesel engines on 800 NJ Transit commuter buses.
- Setting a new, lower standard for sulfur content for home heating oil.
For more information on air quality in New Jersey, including a link to information about the state’s air monitoring network and daily air quality reports, please visit: the Division of Air Quality website at: http://www.nj.gov/dep/daq/