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EPA MOVES TO STRENGTHEN AIR POLLUTION PLANS IN MAJOR URBAN AREAS

Release Date: 12/01/99
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FOR RELEASE: WEDNESDAY, DEC. 1, 1999
EPA MOVES TO STRENGTHEN AIR POLLUTION
PLANS IN MAJOR URBAN AREAS


In a move that will mean cleaner air for some 49 million Americans, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency moved today to strengthen smog-reduction plans in nine major urban areas with the most challenging air pollution problems in the nation.
The nine metropolitan areas are: Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Greater Connecticut (Hartford), Houston, Milwaukee, New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.

“Each of the plans we reviewed shows a strong commitment to reducing harmful air pollutants that cause smog,” EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner said. “We are confident that, working with states and cities, we can finalize flexible, common-sense approaches to reducing pollution and bring cleaner, healthier air to breathe for millions of Americans within the next decade.”

This preliminary EPA review involved air quality plans for 10 areas covering 13 states and the District of Columbia. Regarding the plans already reviewed, EPA concluded that every plan but that for western Massachusetts needs further work to protect public health and the environment. On Nov. 15, EPA received significant plan revisions for the Houston-Galveston area that are currently under expedited review.

Under the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, Congress required these areas to develop plans for providing cleaner air to their citizens. With the exception of western Massachusetts, each of the areas will need to update their transportation and air quality planning to ensure that public health and the environment are protected. These plans are especially critical in urban areas with growing threats to air quality from smog-producing traffic congestion and other sources.

Each year, smog is responsible for millions of cases of serious respiratory disorders and reduced lung capacity, as well as increasing the intensity of hundreds of thousands of cases of asthma in children.

Today’s action is another in a series of steps EPA is taking to help states ensure cleaner air for all Americans:
    • EPA soon will issue the final rule for the greatest reduction in tailpipe emissions ever in cars and trucks. EPA also will be going forward with its new rule for cleaner fuels.
    • In October, EPA proposed new emission standards for all heavy-duty trucks, including the heaviest categories of SUVs. Early next year, EPA plans to propose even more stringent emission standards for these vehicles. These standards would reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides by between 75 and 90 percent.
    • EPA will soon take final action on petitions from northeastern states to reduce long-range transport of nitrogen oxide emissions from power plants and other large industrial sources.
    • EPA continues to fight for its new, more protective smog standard, currently tied up in litigation, while it moves forward to enforce the older smog standard nationally in nearly 3,000 counties across the United States.
Today’s announcement is also reflected in a consent decree being lodged today with the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia.

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