HARRISBURG, Pa., Jan. 11, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Years of steady progress toward cleaner air have paid off for Pennsylvania, Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger said today.
Philadelphia and surrounding counties have reached air quality levels for the 8-hour health-based ozone standard established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1997. Today, every area in the state has achieved air quality attainment of the 1997 standard, compared to the 37 counties designated by EPA in 2004 as "nonattainment."
Pennsylvania's plan for how the Philadelphia area would attain the standard by June 2010 was preliminarily rejected by EPA. However, due to the improved air quality, EPA anticipates permitting a one-year extension granting the commonwealth until June 2011 to meet the 1997 standard. The area is also likely eligible for a second one-year extension considering air quality during the summer of 2010.
In addition, both Liberty and the City of Clairton in Allegheny County attained the PM10 standard for particulate matter smaller than 10 microns (or 1/100 of a millimeter), which the EPA has determined may impact human health by becoming trapped in the lungs and causing irritation or injury. All areas in the commonwealth, except the Liberty/Clairton area, have attained the annual National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for fine particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns (PM2.5).
"Protecting our air is essential to safeguarding the health of all Pennsylvanians – and especially sensitive populations such as asthmatics, children, and the elderly – from respiratory conditions and associated health risks," said Secretary Hanger. "Pennsylvania has improved its air quality through reducing emissions to protect our environment from pollutants that are harmful to the public and nature."
The Clean Air Act requires EPA to set national standards for pollutants considered harmful to public health and environment. There are two types of national standards. The primary standards set limits to protect public health, including those prone to respiratory conditions. The secondary standards protect welfare by preventing damage to animals, crops, vegetation, and buildings.
Since 2003, the department has reduced nitrogen oxide (NOx) by 34 percent, sulfur dioxide (SO2) by 41 percent, particulate matter (PM10) by 16 percent, and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) by 40 percent. A wide variety of strategies contributed to the decline in ozone levels, ranging from cleaner transportation fuels and vehicles through measures to reduce power plant and industrial emissions with pollution control technology.
Since 2003, Pennsylvania has also enacted measures to reduce the transport of ozone and its precursors within the commonwealth and pushed for such measures throughout the eastern United States.
"While we have achieved an enormous amount of progress, the battle for clean air is far from over," Hanger stated.
In March 2008, EPA adopted a more protective health-based standard of 75 parts per billion (ppb), and in July 2011, EPA is expected to replace that standard with one within the range of 60- to 70-ppb. The department will work to further reduce pollution to continue improving air quality and strive to achieve attainment of the new standard.
For more information, visit www.depweb.state.pa.us.
Media contact: Jamie Legenos, 717-787-1323
SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection