Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Air-quality plan drafted by Council of Governments

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The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments has drafted a new plan to improve air quality in the Washington region.

The region needs to reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds (from fuels, paints and consumer products, including vinyl) and nitrogen oxides (from factories and power plants) to reduce ozone, a tissue irritant and the main component of smog, which causes a panoply of respiratory problems.

The plan depends on greater use of wind energy, energy efficiency measures and lower-emission boat, vehicle and equipment engines. It also calls for reducing pollutants from power plants and reformulating paints, solvents, adhesives and consumer products.

Federal officials may withhold money for highway projects in the region if the region does not meet U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards, which are based on a formula that averages near-peak daily ozone concentrations over three years. The region also must devise a plan to reduce ozone-causing emissions by 15 percent between 2002 to 2008.

The EPA classified the Washington metropolitan area as a ‘‘severe nonattainment” area in 2003 because of its high ozone levels.

Ozone reductions improved the area’s rating to ‘‘moderate nonattainment” in 2004.

The region faces a June 15, 2010, deadline for meeting the EPA’s ozone standard.

The Metropolitan Washington Air Quality Committee, which includes elected officials from the District of Columbia and nearby jurisdictions in Maryland and Virginia, is scheduled to vote on the plan on May 23. Public hearings are set for the week of April 23.

The Maryland Department of the Environment will hold a hearing on the plan at 6 p.m. April 23 in the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission at 8787 Georgia Ave. in Silver Spring.

Review and comment

The draft plan is detailed at sharepoint.mwcog.org⁄airquality.

Post comments online at www.mwcog.org⁄environment⁄air⁄public ore-mail mwaqcpubliccomment@mwcog.org or mail them to Brian J. Hug, Air Quality Planning Program, Maryland Department of the Environment, 1800 Washington Blvd., Baltimore MD 21237.