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RELEASE: 7/26/01
CONTACT: Amy Collings or Loretta O'Donnell
(609) 984-1795 or 609-292-2994


As part of New Jersey's goal to meet the standards set for ozone by the federal Clean Air Act, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is revising its plan to reduce ozone levels. The new regulations are in response to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study that found that further emission reductions are necessary for New Jersey to reach its air quality goals on time.

"The proposed rules are based on regional strategies devised by the Ozone Transport Commission (OTC) and should provide the necessary reductions in ozone and the airborne pollutants that cause it," said DEP Commissioner Bob Shinn. New Jersey and 11 other states from the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions, along with the District of Columbia, make up the OTC. The OTC is committed to using a regional approach to reduce ozone.

Ozone is formed in the lower atmosphere when oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) combine with sunlight. This process is accelerated in the intense heat of the summer months. The new regulations are aimed at reducing VOC and NOx emissions from a variety of sources. Many of the new rules are patterned after similar rules formulated by the California Air Resource Board, considered a leader in air pollution policy.

To reduce VOC emissions, many new control measures will be proposed. These measures control the emissions from mobile equipment repair and refinishing, solvent cleaning operations, and portable fuel containers. Also, new programs to enhance the efficiency of vapor recovery at gas stations will be proposed. In addition, other proposals will limit the amount of VOCs in consumer products and paints. A great number of products will be affected, ranging from air fresheners to nail polish remover.

To reduce NOx emissions, the new rules and amendments would establish more stringent standards and requirements for four categories of combustion sources: boilers, stationary combustion turbines, stationary internal combustion engines, and cement kilns. This proposal is, in part, a reaction to the trend of commercial businesses producing their own power on-site instead of buying it from power companies. Some of these engines are used to generate power during periods of peak demand. "A top priority is to ensure that new power sources do not solve energy problems by creating new environmental issues," said Shinn.

The EPA designates areas that have elevated levels of ozone concentrations as nonattainment areas. Eighteen of New Jersey's 21 counties are in nonattainment areas. The EPA determined that the New York/Northern New Jersey area must reduce its total emissions of VOCs and NOx by 92 tons per day, and the Philadelphia/Southern New Jersey area by 65 tons per day to meet federal standards. Regulations to be proposed are projected to meet those goals.

"We've made significant progress reducing ozone levels since 1990," added Shinn, "and the new regulations will continue that trend."

Ground-level ozone causes a variety of human health effects. Repeated exposure to ozone pollution may cause permanent damage to the lungs. Even when ozone is present in low levels, inhaling it can trigger chest pain, coughing, nausea, throat irritation and congestion. It also can worsen bronchitis, heart disease, emphysema and asthma and reduce lung capacity. Healthy people also experience difficulty in breathing when exposed to ozone pollution. Because ozone pollution usually forms in hot weather, anyone who spends time outdoors in the summer may be affected, particularly children, the elderly, outdoor workers and people exercising.

Elevated ozone concentrations are also damaging to crops and other plant life. It interferes with the ability of plants to produce and store food, making them more susceptible to disease, insects, other pollutants and harsh weather. Ground-level ozone damages the foliage of trees and other plants, ruining the landscape of cities, parks, forests and recreation areas.

The NJDEP is seeking comment from the public on all aspects of this proposed revision to the state's clean air plan. Testimony will be received at a public hearing today at 10 a.m. at the War Memorial in Trenton. Written comments may be submitted to Stacey Roth, Office of Legal Affair, NJDEP, PO Box 402, Trenton, NJ 08625.


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