Michigan among 23 states to reduce smog under new rule

WASHINGTON, DC — Factories and power plants in Michigan must adhere to a new federal rule finalized this week that sets higher limits on air pollution that crosses state lines.

Michigan is among 23 states subject to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new “good neighbor” requirement, which is cracking down on emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx), an air pollutant which helps create ground-level ozone which contributes to smog.

Smog can cause heart and respiratory problems such as asthma attacks in some people, and its precursors are known to travel with the wind across state lines, according to the EPA.

“Every community deserves to breathe fresh air,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “We know air pollution doesn’t stop at the state border.”

Michigan imports and exports these emissions.

Michigan regularly releases air quality days of action during hot summer days when ozone concentrations in western Michigan and counties around metro Detroit reach dangerous levels.

Ground-level ozone in counties along Lake Michigan is formed on warm, stagnant days by NOx and other air pollutants such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that blow into the lake from the metro area of Chicago and parts of Indiana.

According to state regulators, ozone levels along the shores of the lake have prevented Berrien County and parts of Allegan and Muskegon counties from “meeting” federal air quality standards.

On the export side, air pollution from the Detroit metro area also passes through Ontario and Lake Erie to the east coast states, according to the EPA’s Interstate Pollution Tracker.

The EPA says the new restrictions will reduce NOx emissions by about 70,000 tons by 2026, preventing up to 1,300 premature deaths and reducing hospital and emergency room visits.

Each state’s allowable emissions are reduced over time. In Michigan, allowable NOx emissions are to drop from 10,727 tons this year to 4,656 tons in 2029.

From May, fossil-fuel power plants can start using a revised ‘ozone season’ summer trading program that will phase in tighter emissions cuts from the neat year. .

Nationally, the EPA wants a 50% reduction in NOx emissions from power plants by 2027.

In 2026, the EPA will strengthen NOx requirements for industrial sources “that have significant impacts on downwind air quality and the ability to install cost-effective pollution controls.”

The target is to reduce NOx emissions from gas pipelines, cement kilns, steel mill furnaces and boilers, glass furnaces, petrochemical manufacturing boilers and pulp and paper mills by 45.00 tonnes, as well as combustion chambers and waste incinerators.

The new rule reinforces interstate pollution standards developed eight years ago.

This month, the United States Court of Appeals DC Circuit dismissed a challenge to the new emissions rule from an affiliated group of coal-fired electricity providers and other companies.

Michigan and other affected states must develop an implementation plan to ensure that power plants and industrial sites do not add significantly to interstate air pollution. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) said this week that it is reviewing the new EPA rule to determine its impacts here.

In Michigan, ozone levels in the Detroit area have kept Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St. Clair, Washtenaw, and Wayne counties in “non-compliance” status with national air quality standards. ambient air for ozone since 2015.

Non-compliance status triggers additional regulatory steps such as reviews of ozone sources, new use limits for certain solvents, coatings and adhesives that release NOx and VOCs, and testing for potential ozone emissions. vehicles in the area if ozone levels are not corrected.

Hugh McDiarmid, a spokesman for EGLE, said updated air quality monitoring data showed improvement and the state now considers the Detroit area to be on track. ozone.

“The catch is that last year there were two days in the summer when smoke from the California wildfires drifted over southeast Michigan and reached a meter just above the criteria. “, did he declare.

In 2022, EGLE asked the EPA to exclude data collected on June 24 and 25 as part of an exemption for “exceptional events”.

McDiarmid said EGLE’s application is pending with the EPA to designate the Detroit area as meeting federal standards.

Detroit environmental groups have criticized EGLE for excluding the two days in June, arguing that delays in implementing tougher regulations since 2015 have benefited the auto industry at the expense of public health.

Asthma rates in Detroit are disproportionately higher than elsewhere in Michigan, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)

In 2022, Detroit was ranked #1 among US cities with the highest prevalence of asthma and asthma-related emergency room visits and deaths by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).

“Because of polluting industries, southwest Detroit has the worst air quality in the state of Michigan, and that primarily impacts a community of color,” said Elliott Attisha, a physician from the Detroit area quoted in the AAFA report. “Unfortunately, many children and families with asthma in Detroit do not have immediate access to tools and resources that can help control asthma. They may also be unaware of the triggers that trigger their asthma.

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