DEP IMPROVES PUBLIC OUTREACH, POLLUTION CONTROLS
IN LIGHT OF NEW HEALTH STANDARDS
State Environmental Protection
Commissioner Bob Shinn today outlined initiatives to more effectively
warn the public when ozone air pollution reaches unhealthful levels.
"The actions we've taken over the years to reduce ozone levels have
worked, but we have much more work to do to meet the stringent,
health-based standard for ground level ozone that the Environmental
Protection Agency adopted last year with the strong support of
Governor Whitman," Shinn said. "Making further reductions in ozone
pollution will require emission reductions from power plants upwind of
New Jersey, and those reductions are affordable using available
technology. In the meantime, we're making every effort to alert the
public so they can take protective measures when smog levels are
The EPA last summer adopted a tougher standard for ozone after dozens
of health studies found that breathing relatively low levels of ozone
for a prolonged time is harmful to health. Governor Whitman provided
strong national leadership by endorsing the new health standard.
Using the new standard - no more than 80 parts per billion (ppb) of
ozone over an eight-hour period - the state Department of
Environmental Protection determined the air in New Jersey was
unhealthy 42 times so far this summer. By contrast, there were just
four violations this year when the regulatory standard - a maximum of
120 ppb of ozone over a one-hour period - is used.
Ozone is formed when two types of pollutants - volatile organic
compounds, such as gasoline fumes, and oxides of nitrogen (NOx)
created by burning fossil fuels - combine in the atmosphere on hot,
sunny summer days. Ozone is a serious health problem for children, the
elderly and persons suffering respiratory or health problems. Even
otherwise healthy persons who work or exercise outdoors during high
ozone days are also at risk.
Presently, DEP routinely faxes the morning ozone forecasts and
afternoon updates to tri-state area newspapers, wire services and TV
and radio stations. New Jersey provides ozone forecasts to the news
media seven days a week. DEP also maintains a toll-free hotline
residents can call to hear a tape recorded air quality forecast each
weekday. The forecast is updated each afternoon. The hotline number is
1-800-782-0160. Since the summer of 1997, DEP has issued advisories
based on the new health-based standard.
Two initiatives are underway to further improve public notification. A
"hot button" has been added to the DEP web page that will connect
directly to air quality information. DEP also is creating a "list
serve" that anyone with an e-mail account can join. Everyone on the
list serve will automatically receive an e-mail notification when
ozone levels are expected to exceed the health standard. The list
serve will be operational by next April, which is the official start
of the ozone season.
"By using the Internet, we will expand our ability to notify those
specific persons, such as parents of children with asthma or staff at
day care centers or senior citizen centers, who need to know when air
quality is unhealthful," Shinn said. "I'm certain we have the right
mix of policies and technologies to some day make these warnings
unnecessary. Until then, we have an obligation to alert the public to
the health risks of air pollution."
DEP's Bureau of Air Monitoring provides a comprehensive and easy-to-read
ozone information web page. Among the web site's features are color-coded
maps that indicate where ozone levels are the lowest and highest, hourly
read-outs from the state's network of air monitoring stations, charts
that provide historic data on ozone measurements at each air monitoring
station dating back to 1985, and links to other sources of ozone information
including the EPA web site. The DEP web page is at www.state.nj.us/dep/airmon/index/html
DEP also participates in the Ozone Action Partnership, a group of more
than 200 agencies, businesses and organizations that notifies their
employees when unhealthy levels of ozone are forecast. This enables
them to take individual actions to reduce exposure to ozone and help
reduce ozone levels as well, such as carpooling.
DEP's primary ozone reduction initiatives include efforts to reduce
NOx. New Jersey has proposed tighter NOx controls beyond those
required by EPA. EPA called for NOx reductions in 22 eastern and
midwestern states after a regional committee, chaired by Commissioner
Shinn, proved emissions from those states are degrading air quality in
other states. Shinn also was instrumental in developing an agreement
among regional states to address the NOx problem.
When implemented, New Jersey's NOx rule will be among the toughest in
the nation, and will reduce NOx emissions from coal power plants and
other large, industrial burners by more than 80 percent below 1990
levels. The state's NOx emission levels will drop from more than
45,000 tons per year in 1990 down to about 8,200 tons a year by 2003.
Other state initiatives to reduce ozone levels include a Clean Fleets
Program to encourage the use of fleet vehicles that run on cleaner
fuels; the enhanced auto inspection program,
and a Climate Change Initiative that calls for a 3.5 percent reduction
in greenhouse gas emissions in New Jersey by 2005.