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Midwest Air Pollution Raises Costs for Massachusetts Companies

Posted on December 16, 2013

Renewed efforts by Massachusetts and seven other eastern states to force reductions in the air pollution that blows in from the Midwest are a welcome development to anyone who cares about the Bay State business economy.

AirpollutionThe Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states, members of what is known as the Ozone  Transport Region (OTR), filed a petition last week with the Environmental Protection Agency, to require nine upwind states (Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia) to join the OTR and adopt pollution control strategies to reduce pollutants that form ozone ” something that members of the OTR states have been doing for many years.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy,  a former Massachusetts environmental regulator, is required to approve or reject the petition within 18 months.

The OTR states include Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont.

AIM has long supported efforts by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and others to force Midwestern states to control ozone pollution that drifts East and adds billions of dollars to the cost of doing business here. So-called transport pollution means that Massachusetts employers who have spent significant amounts of money to conform to stringent environmental control standards must pay again to clean up someone else’s mess.

EPA modeling shows that as much as 70 to 98 percent of the ozone air pollution problem in Massachusetts is blown in from upwind states. Parts of some downwind states would remain in violation of federal standards even if they eliminated all of the pollution generated within their borders.

The cost of removing an additional ton of pollution in downwind states is estimated at between $10,000 to $40,000 – compared to as little as $500 a ton in upwind states, where even some basic control technologies have not been installed, according to the petition.

AIM took court action on transport pollution in the 1990s, intervening on the side of the EPA in a case in which Midwest states challenged the agency’s authority to find that the transport of ozone precursor emissions from certain identified states contributed to non-attainment in other states. The Midwestern states had sought to block EPA’s ability to require ozone producing states to adopt emission control strategies.

The OTR action came the same week the Supreme Court heard arguments on the EPA’s so-called “good-neighbor” rule, which would require coal-producing states to implement measures to reduce smog and soot. The Obama administration issued the new rule in 2011, but 15 states challenged it in court; it was struck down by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in D.C.