STATE – Last week, the federal Environmental Protection Agency warned New Jersey that 13 of 21 counties have dirty air.
The counties – which include Middlesex and Union – exceeded the 24-hour limit for airborne soot, according to the EPA. The federal agency links long-term soot exposure to a rise in asthma cases, heart attacks and deaths.
The state has five years to address the problem, but William O’Sullivan, who heads the air quality division of the New Jersey Department of Environment Protection, said that steps taken by the Corzine administration should clean up New Jersey’s air before 2014.
In March, the state adopted rules that require sharp limits in the amount of pollutants released by New Jersey’s seven coal-fired power plants, O’Sullivan said. Next month, New Jersey will propose a rule to significantly reduce the amount of sulfur in heating oil by 2016, he said.
New Jersey is also retrofitting public diesel vehicles with particulate traps intended to capture 90 percent of the soot from tailpipe emissions, and the state is working with its neighbors and the EPA to reduce regional air pollution, O’Sullivan said.
Some environmentalists argued that New Jersey isn’t doing enough to ensure clean air.
“For years, we have given polluters a pass in New Jersey,” said Matt Elliott of Environment New Jersey. “The tougher standards that the DEP has enacted are good. They should have been done years ago. It’s better late than never.”
NJ Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel was less diplomatic. “There has been a real failure by the Corzine Administration to adequately address air pollution and the public health impacts from it,” he said.
Both Elliott and Tittel said that the Corzine administration should stop the Public Service Enterprise Group from building a coal-fired plant in Linden and block a plan to bring in electricity from Pennsylvania’s coal fields.
The New Jersey Environmental Federation also opposes the Linden coal plant and opted to endorse Republican Chris Christie in part because of his stated opposition to the project.
Elliott and Titel also said that New Jersey should create rapid bus lines and provide employer incentives to encourage workers to carpool to further help decrease air pollution.
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