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NJDEP Petitions EPA to Get Around Clean Air Act

Date : Fri, 25 Jan 2013 11:15:46 -0500

For Immediate Release
January 10, 2013 Contact Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

NJDEP Petitions EPA to Get Around Clean Air Act Governor Christie is trying to rollback important air quality standards instead of implementing policies to clean up our air.The DEP has just released for the public its final revisions to the State Implementation Plan (SIP) under the Clean Air Act, including a request to redesignate areas that do not meet particulate matter, or soot, standards even though there has been no overall improvement in New Jersey's air quality.DEP is requesting that the EPA certify these areas meet the 15 micrograms per cubic meter of air (ug/m3) standard.The Sierra Club has requested the EPA reject the redesignation and is prepared to litigate if the redesignation is accepted.

"This is nothing but a smokescreen to cover up their dirty record on clean air.Instead of doing their job and cleaning our air they are trying to change the data, which is shameful.What they are proposing is not to clean up our air but to cheat the public," *said Jeff Tittel, Director, NJ Sierra Club.* The administration is playing games to meet the 15 ug/m3.They are proposing to move monitoring stations and eliminate ones in some of the most polluted areas of the state such as the Ironbound section of Newark and Elizabeth.The administration is using the recession and a downturn in energy use to justify rolling back air quality protections.Many of the Governor's programs actually increase air pollution in the long run, such as pulling out of RGGI and cutting clean energy funding. The EPA's latest proposed soot rule would increase protections even further to 12 ug/m3 and New Jersey is nowhere close to meeting that standard.This is a 20% reduction over the current standard.

"This request needs to be rejected by EPA.The state cannot meet the current soot standard without playing games or misinformation, let alone the 20% reduction being proposed by the EPA," said Jeff Tittel. New Jersey has been in a recession the last couple of years resulting in decreased energy use.People have been driving less do to unemployment, businesses have been using less energy and facilities have not been running at full capacity, resulting in less air emissions.More people have been taking mass transit because of the recession with PATH having a record year.High energy costs have led to a reduction in energy across sectors.It has also been more rainy than usual the past two years, resulting in cleaner air readings.The DEP is only using data from the past two years to make our air appear on paper cleaner than it really is.

"By cherry picking data and not looking at long term trends they are trying to fix the system to allow them to weaken environmental protections and have more air pollution in New Jersey,"said Jeff Tittel. The air in New Jersey for the last decades has been getting dirtier. Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) data from the EPA shows increases in pollutants in our air.The DEP is cherry picking data so they can weaken rules and regulations and rollback clean air standards and enforcement. Major studies by groups such as American Lung Association show New Jersey still has some of the worst air quality in the nation and DEP is playing with the numbers instead of fixing the problem. The American Lung Association's 2012 State of the Air report graded 16 counties in New Jersey.11 counties received an F grade and two others received a D regarding high ozone days. The administration is claiming their policies such as the Strategic Plan and the Energy Master Plan will meet long term pollution but these programs are not permanent or enforceable.The state does not directly regulate particulates.There are secondary emissions that are not enforceable either. Rather the Governor's policies will make air pollution worse.The Strategic Plan will allow for more sprawl and development especially in the Highlands, Pinelands, and around Barnegat Bay.The Energy Master Plan slashed our clean, renewable energy goals and shifted the state back to relying on fossil fuels.The administration has not implemented a policy to look at the cumulative impacts of air pollution and develop health-based standards. The DEP did not get the reductions in air pollution from enhanced inspection and maintenance programs and have actually delayed requirements for inspections of automobiles.

"Just like on water quality standards, the administration is fudging the numbers instead of taking action to improve our environment," *said Jeff Tittel*. The administration does not address their policies that will make air quality worse such as subsidizing the Xanadu megamall, delaying the Sulfur rule, widening the Parkway, and increasing transit fares.Automobiles safety inspections have been delayed and extended potentially adding more pollution to our air.The Governor has diverted $279 million from the Clean Energy Fund last year alone to close budget gaps.The Governor pulled New Jersey out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Emissions Initiative and refused to join other northeastern states in Kansas v. EPA a lawsuit which challenges the proposed Cross State air Pollution Rule.These programs and policies will result in more pollution down the road. The Governor has supported the construction of three new natural gas plants in the state that will receive larger ratepayer subsidies than renewable energy sources.The increased air pollution from these fossil fuel plants will be especially negative in the Ironbound section of Newark.

"We have not turned the corner on clean air, on some days you cannot even see the corner.This year we have had many advisory days.People in Newark may have to buy gas masks but the Christie administration will say the air is okay," said Jeff Tittel. The Governor is weakening compliance and enforcement programs, especially when it comes to air.Fines collected from all polluters are down but air pollution fines have seen the largest decrease.Recent reports found air pollution fines over the past four years are down from $13.8 million to $2.1 million.Violation notices across all DEP programs are down to 5500 last year versus 6900 in 2008.On top of that the amount of fines that are collected are down and the amount is often reduced from what was initially proposed by the DEP.

"How does the administration know who will achieve pollution reductions when there is no one at the switch watching and the polluters and they are being treated like customers?" asked Jeff Tittel.

Jeff continued"The Christie administration by weakening enforcement, delaying key parts of the SIP and widening highways will actually be increasing air pollution.They are going to try to use this scam as a way to get around EPA oversight as the air gets worse because of their policies." Communities and the environment are paying the cost of mercury and toxic air pollution from these dirty fossil fuel plants.Particulate matter comes mostly from coal and diesel emissions.According to the 2010 /Toll from Coal/ report, 531 people in New Jersey die each year from coal related deaths. There are 445 hospitalizations and 987 heart attacks in New Jersey from coal plants. Close to 30% of the children in Newark has asthma and instead of improving air quality the DP is closing the Ironbound monitoring station. We are going to be challenging these changes with the EPA since the EPA has oversight.

"You can play all the games you want but when a child has an asthma attack or a senior citizen cannot breathe all your games you play do not matter, you cannot hide that.It is about protecting the public. We can see through their games even with all the smog," said Jeff Tittel. The DEP's SIP revision can be viewed here: http:www.state.nj.us/dep/baqp/sip/siprevs.htm<a>

-- 
Kate Millsaps
Conservation Program Coordinator
NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club
609-656-7612
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Received on 2013-01-25 08:15:46

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