Thursday, April 24, 2014
By Colin Woodard firstname.lastname@example.org
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A truck loaded with logs enters a paper mill in Jay in 2005. The paper industry backs Maine’s proposal to ease anti-smog rules, saying it will remove a barrier to major investments in mills. Wood pellet manufacturers also have expressed support.
2005 File Photo by John Ewing/Staff Photographer
Sappi paper mill in Westbrook
File photo by John Patriquin/Staff Photographer
State Sen. Tom Saviello of Wilton, the ranking Republican on the Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee, said the rules are unnecessary and have undermined efforts to bring new sawmill and paper mill investments to the state.
“This is just one more hurdle to take out of the way that gives our state a chance to grow,” said Saviello, who has been an environmental compliance officer at Maine paper mills. “If a mill wants to expand, we want them to do that while protecting air quality in every way. But give us meaningful regulations.”
OTHER STATES FIGHT PROPOSAL
Critics have said the changes would effectively remove Maine from a regional alliance to control cross-border ozone pollution in 12 states and the District of Columbia that has reduced smog blowing into Maine from other states.
The requirements that the LePage administration is seeking to lift are followed by all 13 governments in the Ozone Transport Region, created under the Clean Air Act in the early 1990s. The entity has been credited for ending finger-pointing and blame-shifting among Northeast states, but there has been increasing tension among them and states in the South and Midwest, which emit smog precursors to the region but refuse to join the alliance with its stricter air pollution standards.
In May, eight members of the Ozone Transport Region sent letters to Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia asking them to join the regional group. Maine did not sign the letter.
None of the states accepted the invitation, which was also extended to Virginia, which is a member of the region only for the part of the state within the Washington, D.C., metro area.
The eight eastern states – including Delaware and New York – are frustrated because they have no control over smog that comes from beyond the Ozone Transport Region but they are held accountable by the EPA for its effects. Delaware has found it effectively impossible to meet EPA ozone requirements because the air floating into the state is so polluted.
Maryland – which estimates that 70 percent of its problem blows in from outside the region – earlier this year hinted at legal action to force the EPA to impose stricter pollution targets on southern and Midwestern neighbors, according to The Capital newspaper in Annapolis.
In that context, Maine’s attempt to break ranks with the rest of the Ozone Transport Region has been seen as undermining the regional effort. In its letter to the EPA, Delaware noted that Maine is not alone in dealing with imported smog and said the EPA should address it by forcing other states to join the regional body rather than allowing Maine to leave it.
Delaware and New York are also taking issue with Maine’s claim that smog emissions here don’t affect the ability of any other states in the Ozone Transport Region to meet their air quality standards. Both noted that models show a small but significant amount of smog emissions go to Cape Cod, which has missed its smog targets in two of the past three years, both by an amount so small that Maine’s emissions might have been decisive.
Both states also wrote that, under the Clean Air Act, Maine must show that the changes would make air quality better, which they said the state has not done. Delaware noted that although Maine has low emissions, half of the members of the region have nitrogen oxide emission levels less than Maine’s: Connecticut, Delaware, Washington, D.C., New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.
Both states wrote that Maine’s move is unwise because the EPA is expected to further tighten smog requirements, likely pushing some Maine counties into non-attainment.
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