News & Events

Pennsylvania DEP Releases Evaluation of Air Quality Program

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

HARRISBURG, Pa., April 27 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Pennsylvania has made great strides in improving air quality to levels that protect the public's health in most of the state, according to a Department of Environmental Protection report released today.

"This report shows we are doing a better job of protecting the public's health and the environment by reducing harmful pollutants and emissions such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, ground-level ozone, particulate matter and carbon monoxide," said DEP Secretary John Hanger. "But as much progress as we have made, there is still more work that needs to be done."

DEP's Air Quality Program regulates more than 70,000 inspection points such as pollution control devices, boilers, fuels and paints at 3,650 facilities that produce air pollution in Pennsylvania. The previous Air Quality Program evaluation, as required by the Air Pollution Control Act, was issued in November 2002.

Hanger cited the Clean Air Interstate Rule, or CAIR, a program designed to lessen the interstate transportation of emissions from electric generating stations, as being a major force in reducing the amounts of nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that by 2010, CAIR will reduce those emissions by 44 percent and 71 percent respectively.

The department has also recorded a significant reduction in emissions from industrial sources of air pollution in Pennsylvania in the 2002 - 2007 period. Major industrial sources of air pollution have reduced emissions of nitrogen oxides by 35,331 tons; volatile organic matter by 7,735 tons; particulate matter by 4,212 tons; and carbon monoxide by 16,102 tons.

Ground-level ozone and fine particulate matter remain concerns in parts of the commonwealth. Ozone is a key component in smog and is a human health threat especially to children, the elderly and people with respiratory illnesses. Fine particulate matter, microscopic particles that can cause serious health problems by lodging deep in the lungs, is also a concern.

"We have made great strides achieving attainment status for counties according to EPA's 1997 standards for eight-hour ozone and fine particulate matter," said Hanger. "But recent actions by EPA have made those standards even more stringent."

In most areas of the state, except the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh areas, Pennsylvania has attained the 8-hour ozone and particulate matter health-based standards.

"While we can be pleased with our past progress, we must make further reductions to meet the new, more stringent health standards. We look forward to continuing our successes and building upon the recommendations of this report to provide more effective air quality protection programs for the present and the future," Hanger said.

For more information and to view a copy of the report, visit www.depweb.state.pa.us, keyword: Air Quality.