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EPA plans to limit coal emissions

March 16, 2010

Human biology sophomore Jennifer Huang, left, and English sophomore Talya Tavor solicit support during the MSU Beyond Coal rally Tuesday in the courtyard behind Wells Hall. The Olympic-themed event was in observation of National Clean Air Day.

Photo by Kat Petersen | The State News

The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to lower the primary limit of ozone levels nationally might spell trouble for the Lansing area.

The proposal, released in January by the EPA, would decrease the primary limit of ozone emissions allowed to between 0.060 parts per million, or ppm, and 0.070 ppm — standards that the Lansing area might have problems reaching, said Mary Maupin, environmental quality specialist for the Department of Natural Resources and Environment’s Air Quality Division.

Maupin said the EPA will finalize the proposal in August, and in December, the EPA will determine which counties are at “attainable” levels — those safe for public health and those that are “nonattainable” — reaching unsafe ozone emission levels. Local levels are measured at two ozone monitors, one at Eastern High School near Sparrow Health System and the other at the Rose Lake Wildlife Area.

“(The EPA) takes the average of three years to determine the level,” she said. “From 2007 to 2009, the two monitors measured the local level at the Eastern monitor as 0.073 (ppm), and the number for the Rose Lake monitor was 0.071 (ppm). We’re over the new limit at both monitors.”

The monitors measure the ozone emissions level for Ingham, Clinton and Eaton counties.

Environmental action group MSU Beyond Coal celebrated the EPA’s move in conjunction with National Clean Air Day on Tuesday by running relays and participating in other outside activities on campus to raise awareness and gather signatures to a petition urging EPA administrator Lisa Jackson to set the primary standard at 0.060 ppm.

MSU Beyond Coal campaign coordinator Monica Embrey said the group’s goal was to get 250 petitions signed by the end of the event.

“(We’re) working to help get a lot of awareness on campus about ozone standards,” Embrey said. “Ozone comes from our own coal plant in the form of nitrogen oxide, and that has huge impacts on our public health.”

Maupin said it is unclear now what the specific ramifications will be for the three Michigan counties if they enter a nonattainment status but said more stringent measures for incoming emission sources will be enforced.

“It is a disincentive for business investments to go into an area of nonattainment,” she said. “New factories will have to have state-of-the-art control measures.”

Changes in state implementation programs will have to take place, Maupin said. In the past, these changes have resulted in programs such as regional cap-and-trade among emission sources, such as power plants, she said.

Human biology sophomore Jennifer Huang, who attended the event, said she worries for the future of environmental health in light of ozone emissions.

“I feel like everyone’s so happy on days like this,” Huang said, referring to the sunny weather. “Everyone’s out, and you see so many runners on your way to class. Maybe one day if we keep using coal, we won’t see the sun just as brightly as today; we won’t be able to run outside and be active.”

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