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It’s an ill wind that blows Maryland no good

Maryland joined seven other states in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast in petitioning the federal government Monday to require nine upwind states to cut down air pollution emissions.

The petition is aimed at Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. It seeks a reduction in emissions carried by prevailing winds that contribute to the formation of ozone in the downwind states.

The other states filing the petition are Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Illinois Coal Plants

This Nov. 13, 2013 file photo shows the Ameren Corp. power plant outside of the southern Illinois town of Newton. (AP Photo/Jim Suhr, File)

The petition seeks what it says are long-overdue commitments from the upwind states to protect the health of downwind residents and to level the playing field for businesses.

“Delaware air quality remains overwhelmed by air pollution from upwind states, even though we have reduced emissions within Delaware of ozone-forming pollution by more than 70 percent since 1990,” said Delaware Gov. Jack Markell.

The petition asks the Environmental Protection Agency to require the nine upwind states to join the petitioning states in what is known as the Ozone Transport Region. Under the federal Clean Air Act, states added to the region would have to take actions to reduce pollution consistent with downwind state efforts.

“Even if the people of New Hampshire took every car off the road, we would, at best, reduce ozone by only 3 percent on bad air days,” New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan said.

“And on those bad air days, New Hampshire receives more than 95 percent of its air pollution from upwind states.”

The EPA is required to approve or disapprove of the petition within 18 months.

Unhealthy levels of ozone can cause coughing, throat irritation and chest pains. It can aggravate asthma and other chronic lung diseases.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court said it will consider reinstating a federal regulation intended to reduce power plant pollution that contributes to unhealthy air in neighboring states.

The court said it will review an appeals court ruling that overturned the EPA’s cross-state air pollution rule. The appellate court said the EPA exceeded its authority by imposing “massive emissions reduction requirements” on plants in upwind states.

The Maryland Department of the Environment noted in a press release Monday that the state has taken several actions to reduce air pollution generated in-state, include the implementation of the Maryland Healthy Air Act and the Maryland Clean Cars Program. It said preliminary results from 2012 air sampling and emissions records show continued improvement in Maryland’s air quality.

Maryland power plants have invested $2.6 billion in technology to comply with the Maryland Healthy Air Act, the department said, but Maryland is still not meeting standards for ground-level ozone.

Maryland estimates that as much as 70 percent of its ozone air pollution problem comes from upwind states — and the Department of the Environment said that ozone transported into the state has been measured at levels that already violate the EPA’s revised standard.

Unhealthy levels of ozone can irritate the respiratory system, causing coughing, throat irritation and chest pains and aggravating asthma and other chronic lung diseases. Ozone and other air pollutants have also been linked to premature death.

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