July 9, 2018 is a Code Orange bad air day. Submit comments.

Try not to breathe, but support DNREC petitions to EPA

July 9, 2018 is an official Code Orange bad air day in Delaware. Bad air days occur often in Delaware, for example June 30th, July 2nd, and today, July 9th. Tomorrow, July 10th, may also be an official bad air day.

A Code Orange bad air day for ozone is also likely to be at least a Code Yellow bad air day for particulates (PM2.5). Frequently the combination of ozone, particles, heat, humidity, and allergens (pollen) make Delaware very unhealthy.

Here’s what the DNREC has to say:

Ozone levels have risen quickly over the weekend and weather conditions will be conducive on Monday for further formation of ozone due to full sun all day with light winds. Highest concentrations are expected in New Castle County. Similar conditions are expected for Tuesday as well.

Code Orange levels are Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups. (emphasis added by Green Delaware)

Knowing that Delaware has struggled with bad air for decades, people might think the “air” shop of the DNREC is incompetent. This is not so. In our experience Delaware’s air regulators are generally more competent and motivated than other parts of the Department. Much of the credit for this goes to Ali Mirzakhalili, who former DNREC Secretary John Hughes once described as “my environmental attack dog.” This spring Ali resigned from the DNREC to take over the Oregon air program. This is most likely Delaware’s loss and Oregon’s gain, but we don’t lack confidence in Division of Air Quality Acting Director Dave Fees.

Delaware’s air quality problems are hard to solve. One can point to the inactivity of the Delaware Division of Public Health, politicians siding with polluters, and stupid and harmful actions such as the reopening of the Delaware City Refinery. But, much of the problem is Delaware’s position downwind of the rest of the country, such that pollutants blow into the state on prevailing winds, from sources outside of the state’s control.

For some time, Delaware has been pushing the US Environmental Protection Agency to regulate upwind power plants that are contributing to high ozone levels in Delaware. It’s hard at the best of times to prod the EPA into action, and with the agency under the control of crooks and polluter lobbyists appointed by trump, nobody should be surprised that EPA is denying Delaware’s petitions.

“EPA is proposing to deny five petitions submitted under section 126 of the Clean Air Act. The state of Delaware submitted four of these petitions. Maryland submitted one. These petitions sought reductions in emissions of ozone-forming nitrogen dioxide (NOx) from specific power plants in the upwind states of Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. The Agency has concluded that neither Delaware nor Maryland has met their burden to demonstrate that the sources they named emit or would emit ozone forming pollutants at levels that violate the Clean Air Act’s good neighbor provision for the 2008 and 2015 ozone standards. In addition, EPA’s independent analysis, does not show a violation of the good neighbor provision of the Clean Air Act.” EPA “fact sheet.”

DNREC says:

Delaware continues to struggle to meet the current federal standard for ozone. Much of the emissions that contribute to high ozone come from sources upwind of Delaware. The Department has petitioned the U.S. EPA to require emission reductions from four upwind sources. Please join us at Delaware Technical Community College’s Stanton Campus, Newark, DE and voice your thoughts and comments on the proposed denial by EPA of Delaware’s petitions for clean air on July 16, 2018 beginning 10 am. If you wish to register for this event, please email Valerie Gray at valerie.gray@state.de.us.

More from a June 25th DNREC press release:

DNREC to hold public meeting July 16 on EPA’s proposed denial of Delaware’s Clean Air Act petitions to reduce air pollution originating elsewhere from coming into the state

WILMINGTON (June 25, 2018) – The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control will hold a public meeting Monday, July 16 to enable Delawareans to express their opinion about the US Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to deny the state’s 126(b) Clean Air Act petitions aimed at reducing air pollution that comes into Delaware after originating elsewhere. The public meeting will be held from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. in Room A112, Wing A, Delaware Technical Community College Stanton Campus, 400 Stanton Christiana Rd., Newark, DE 19713.

DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin scheduled the July 16 public meeting in response to EPA’s refusal to provide a more convenient venue to Delawareans for voicing their opinion of EPA’s proposed denial of the CAA petitions, and also on account of EPA’s sharply limiting the public comment period for the agency’s proposed actions. EPA held a public hearing in Washington, D.C., June 22 – only 15 days after the agency announced it would deny Delaware’s Clean Air Act petitions – failing to act on both Secretary Garvin’s requests for not less than 45 days for public comment and a later date for EPA’s hearing to be held in Delaware.

“We are holding this meeting to provide an opportunity for the public to comment about the transmission of air pollution from out of state into Delaware,” Secretary Garvin said. “The Department has pursued – and will continue to pursue – voluntary and collaborative efforts with partner states to ensure upwind power plants meet the same stringent standards Delaware is required to meet. All Delawareans would agree that it is now time for EPA to hold upwind sources accountable for ozone emissions that are impacting downwind states.”
More information about the meeting can be found on the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar at https://publicmeetings.delaware.gov/Meeting/60043. Comments from the public meeting will be submitted to EPA in the form of a transcript on behalf of all who speak on the proposed denial of the CAA petitions, to EPA’s federal docket (EPA-HQ-OAR-2018-0295). More information from EPA on its proposed denial of Delaware’s 126(b) petitions can be found on EPA’s website at https://www.epa.gov/ozone-pollution/proposed-action-clean-air-act-section-126-petitions-delaware-and-maryland. Acting Director David Fees of DNREC’s Division of Air Quality gave testimony on Delaware’s behalf at EPA’s public hearing last week in Washington that can be found on the DNREC website at http://www.dnrec.delaware.gov/Air/Documents/06-22-Dave-Fees-testimony-at-EPA-public-hearing.pdf.

Members of the public interested in speaking at the meeting are asked to sign up by July 12 by sending an email to Valerie.Gray@state.de.us of the Division of Air Quality. Written comments about the EPA’s proposed denial of the 126(b) petitions also can be submitted to Ms. Gray via email through Friday, July 13.

Green Delaware frequently disagrees with the DNREC, but when the agency tries to do it’s job public support makes sense. We urge support for the DNREC petitions and oppose the EPA proposal to deny them. We will be submitting comments and urge readers to do the same, either to the DNREC or directly to EPA.

Alan Muller

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