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Ozone Transport Commission advances petition to EPA to help cut Maryland air pollution that originates elsewhere

The Ozone Transport Commission has voted to advance a petition to the United States Environmental Protection Agency that could help reduce air pollution in Maryland from upwind sources.

The commission, which was formed to help find regional solutions to air pollution, approved on Tuesday the petition originally filed by the Maryland Department of the Environment, according to a news release issued Wednesday. The petition proposed that power plants in Pennsylvania need to be required to reduce harmful emissions that are carried by the wind into Maryland.

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"We’re pleased with the outcome on Maryland’s petition and appreciate the continuing collaboration among OTC members,” Maryland Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles said in the release. “The OTC vote is progress, and it shows states will continue to lead on regional partnerships and local solutions grounded in science and the Clean Air Act.”

Even though Maryland’s air quality continues to improve, according to the 2020 Clean Air Progress report, due to state and federal regulations, technology and better business operations, the agency said the problem of ground-level ozone, also known as smog, is still the “most pervasive and challenging.”

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The agency said about 70% of the state’s ozone problems stem from emissions in upwind states. And the “transport” of the ozone can threaten states that are downwind, like Maryland, to meet federal, health-based standards for air quality.

Last May, the MDE filed a petition under a section of the Clean Air Act to request additional air pollution control in Pennsylvania. According to the petition, the agency said that Pennsylvania allows an excess of emissions every day.

Maryland has taken other steps to help meet air quality standards. The agency said the state has been involved with legal actions as well as requiring that the largest coal-fired power plants are required to optimize their air pollution controls to minimize nitrogen oxides emissions during the summer.

“Maryland is committed to clean air progress, working respectfully with all states, and fighting to uphold Clean Air Act requirements and good neighbor programs,” Grumbles said. “We will continue to track Pennsylvania’s efforts, offering assistance where we can, and pledging to work collaboratively with all of our partner jurisdictions to keep improving air quality for all.”

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