DEP Holds Hearing on
EPA's New Source Review Proposals Concerns Raised About
Effect on New Jersey Air Quality
(03/49) TRENTON -- The New Jersey
Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today convened
a public hearing on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's
(EPA) new air pollution rules for power plants and other
industrial facilities. The proposals would change the New
Source Review (NSR) program, which requires improved air
pollution controls when these facilities make modifications
that result in increased emissions. The changes would greatly
expand the exemptions for "routine maintenance, repair
and replacement" to include activities which could
increase emissions and indefinitely extend the life of high-emitting
facilities. The rules, which were announced last November,
were formally proposed in the Federal Register on December
DEP organized the public hearing after
EPA ignored the state's request for a public hearing in
the state and announced that the closest of EPA's hearings
would be held in Albany, New York. Governor McGreevey had
requested a hearing in New Jersey last February in a letter
to EPA Administrator Whitman stating "I am greatly
concerned because nothing less that the health of New Jerseyans
is at stake."
Approximately one-third of New Jersey's
air pollution originates out-of-state. The facilities that
would benefit from the new rules generate nitrogen oxide,
a major contributor to the state's ozone problem, and particulate
matter. Both are known triggers of asthma attacks, a major
health concern in the state. Other contaminants of concern
include sulfur dioxide, another asthma trigger and a contributor
to acid rain; carbon dioxide, which results in climate change;
and mercury, a toxic metal that has contaminated much of
New Jersey's freshwater fish resulting in health advisories
DEP Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell opened
the hearing with a presentation reviewing the specifics
of the NSR proposal and explaining the state's concern about
the new rules. As the newly elected Vice-Chair of the Ozone
Transport Commission (OTC), the Commissioner used the hearing
as an opportunity to explain to those in attendance how
much of our region's air quality problems are caused by
pollution transported into the region from the west. "These
new rules will have a detrimental effect on the quality
of the air that every one of us breathes" he noted.
The OTC was established under the federal
Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 to help develop solutions
to reduce the ozone shared by all of the Northeastern and
Mid-Atlantic States as a result of ozone transport. The
OTC's region includes Connecticut, Delaware, the District
of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire,
New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont,
and the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.
The hearing was attended by a number of
elected officials along with representatives of business,
environmental, health and community-based organizations.
Among the elected officials testifying were U.S. Senator
Frank Lautenberg, Congressman Robert Menendez of Hoboken,
Assemblymen Upendra Chiukula (Middlesex/Somerset Co.) and
Joseph Cryan (Union Co.) and Essex County Executive Joseph
N. DiVincenzo, Jr.
Senator Lautenberg, in one of the opening
statements at the hearing, set the tone for most of the
comments. "These proposed changes by the EPA remove
pollution regulations and are just another example of the
Bush Administration's assault on New Jersey's environment."
The senator went on to note that "much of the progress
we made in the 90's to protect our water and our air have
been reversed in order to produce larger corporate profits
despite the increased health risks to our families."
U.S. Senator Jon Corzine, in written comments
to the DEP, stated "Governor McGreevey and Commissioner
Campbell should be commended for continuing to press for
a full airing of the implications of the Bush administration's
New Source Review proposal." He went on to note that
"the proposals would effectively eliminate the teeth
in the review program and basically favor polluters over
public health. These rollbacks will have a real impact on
people's lives. What we need are tougher standards and regulations,
Concern over the health effects of the
proposed changes was a major theme of those testifying at
the hearing. "It is imperative that the EPA recognize
that we do not live in isolation," said Rep. Bob Menendez.
"Nearly one-third of our state's pollution does not
emanate from within New Jersey, but rather from outside
sources. We cannot afford the detrimental effects this ruling
will have on the air our families and children breathe.
Our nation's air quality is in grave danger."
Essex County Executive DiVincenzo added,
"lowering the NSR standards will further pollute the
air we breathe leading to more cases of asthma and lung
and heart ailments. These health problems are already too
high in Essex County. New Jersey residents cannot be condemned
to breathing unhealthy air."
The proposed NSR rule changes have been
a subject of controversy for a number of years. During her
tenure as Governor, EPA Administrator Whitman recognized
the contribution made by the Midwest to New Jersey's air
pollution problems. "We've done much here in New Jersey
to ensure that our residents can breathe clean air,"
Governor Whitman said in a statement. "All our efforts
are fruitless, however, if New Jerseyans must breathe the
dirty air coming into our state from Midwest coal-burning
Commissioner Campbell also noted the potential
economic impact the NSR rule change could have for New Jersey
businesses. "The rules may also adversely affect the
bottom-line of every facility in the state with an air permit.
If Midwest facilities that stand to benefit from this rule
don't do their fair share in controlling pollution, the
federal Clean Air Act may require that New Jersey businesses
pick up the slack."
DEP will transcribe the testimony presented
at today's hearing and submit it to EPA to be considered
as part of official public comment on the proposed rules.
EPA's public comment period will close on May 2, 2003.