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Which way does the wind blow? The future of clean air in Maryland is at stake.

by Cindy Zheng, Reporter

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Under the Clean Air Act, Maryland has asked the Environmental Protection Agency to require Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Indiana, and West Virginia to continuously run their air pollution controls during the ozone season (May 1 to October 31). These controls are used to maintain the purity of the air standard set by the International Standards Organization.

This is a reasonable step toward healthy air for all, but I doubt we will breathe freely on this.

Although Maryland filed the petition on December 15, 2016, the EPA refused to rule and extended the deadline for their decision to July 17, 2017. Maryland is not alone and has not been the only state fighting for our health. 

In addition, Connecticut and Delaware have both requested the agency to employ pollution controls at the Brunner Island which occupies most the space on an island on the Susquehanna River.

These five states are the main contributors to thickening ozone layer which forms from the pollutants blowing in and reacting with the UV rays. This, in turn, has been damaging the citizens of Maryland.

In the few last years, Maryland has had a total of 18 orange code days with one red code, according to the Air Quality Index. Two years ago Maryland only had nine. This number has doubled and, without any action taken, Maryland air quality will only go downhill. Are you ready for a future where we have to stay indoors and use asthma inhalers to breathe?

Ben Grumbles, Secretary of the Environment, said,  “Running the pollution controls that are already installed but are not always being used in out-of-state power plants is a common-sense approach.” Grumbles believes that this is the single best step we can take.

Just 30 days after Maryland sent in the petition, New York filed a lawsuit against the EPA about the interstate air pollution. This is when a group of pollutants travel to great distances affecting the air quality and the public health within the region. Such pollutants will only impair well-being that can lead to respiratory illnesses.

Maryland has already been committed to this action and wants the surrounding five states to follow. From this, Maryland Department of the Environment hopes to decrease the number of pollutants in Maryland skies.

Contributing to this, Maryland also passed a Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act last year. This plan states actions that will aid Maryland to achieve the required 25% reduction in greenhouse gasses. So far, reports from MDE show that Maryland is on track to achieve this goal by 2020.

This is a remarkable movement, but, seeing that Maryland has already invested $2.6 billion on  protecting and purifying the air, the cost may turn away the other states from compliance.

I, too, see this as a drawback for these five largely Republican states. Regarding their political stance, their lawmakers appear to support Donald Trump’s anti-environmental protection agenda.

From my perspective, as long as the current administration is trying to reduce the EPA workforce (or eliminate it), Maryland may live under smog-filled skies.

Trump’s team already laid out a plan for the EPA that stated they will be making major budget cuts. This aspect displays the fact that Trump has already made his stand on environmental issues.

One lawmaker from Florida, Matt Gaetz introduced a bill that would dissolve the EPA completely by 2018.

In February,  Gaetz tweeted out saying, “To better protect the environment we should abolish the EPA and downstream resources to states for more effective & efficient protection.” Gaetz also included a link to Florida newspaper story explaining his choice and the situation. He cited only one example of farmers needing permits for ponds to justify abolishing an entire federal organization.  That worries me.  

Dissolving the EPA is a terrible idea.  Air and water do not know to stay within the boundaries of each state!  If states enact different degrees of air, water, and land supervision, the pollution will spread to other states, and they will have no control.

As of right now the EPA has made no comment on either passing or rejecting the petition.

Maryland has argued that the wind, a global factor, has no boundaries. I believe that without these five bordering states all approving of this petition, the time it takes for Maryland skies to better will only get dragged on.

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Which way does the wind blow? The future of clean air in Maryland is at stake.