Carper: Delaware choked by ozone pollution from nearby states, urges action by EPA

Senator Tom Carper. Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

STANTON — With every new EPA director — interim or otherwise — comes hope that the federal government helps Delaware bid for clearner air.

Last week in Washington, D.C., U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., raised concerns about ozone pollution fueled by air flowing from power plants in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Delaware’s senior senator and ranking Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, spoke with newly appointed acting EPA Director Andrew Wheeler to bring attention to Delaware’s four denied petitions under the Clean Air Act.

A letter from Delaware’s congressional delegation requesting reconsideration of the denial was sent to then-EPA Director Scott Pruitt on June 27.

Sen. Carper’s update came Monday at Delaware Technical Community College during testimony at a hearing regarding the EPA’s denial to consider how three power plants in Pennsylvania and another in West Virginia are affecting Delaware’s air quality, which Sen. Carper described as “problematic” when it comes to ozone level.

Public comments can be submitted online to through July 23. Comments will be submitted to the EPA.

State officials are asking that the three power plants run pollution control equipment any time when in operation, and the fourth to avoid using coal during the ozone season. The emissions have resulted in dangerous ozone formation, Delawareans maintain, especially in the summer.

Referenced power plants included Brunner Island, Conemaugh, and Homer City in Pennsylvania, and the Harrison facility in West Virginia.

“The effects of this cross-state pollution on Delaware is staggering,” according to the senator’s prepared remarks.

“Our state has found that emissions from other states account for nearly 94 percent of ozone pollution in the First State. That means no matter how hard Delaware works to protect its own communities from dirty, smoggy air, 94 percent of the pollution lies outside the state’s control. Delaware must have the cooperation from upwind states and EPA to ever have the chance for healthy air.”

Delaware Department of Natural Resourses and Environmental Control Secretary Shawn Garvin expressed his concern and read an opinion piece authored by Gov. John Carney, who was unable to attend due to attending a funeral downstate.

According to the governor, who noted that he’s working with Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn to explore legal remedies, “Delaware companies have spent money and cleaned up their emissions, other states have not.”

The situation is particularly dire for Delaware’s 16,000 children and 63,000 adults with asthma, 47,000 adults with COPD and 68,000 people with cardiovascular disease, American Lung Association Environmental Health Advocacy and Public Policy Director Kevin Stewart said.

“Anyone’s health can be harmed by unhealthy levels of ozone, but certain groups are particularly at risk,” he said. “This includes children, people with asthma and other lung diseases, seniors, outdoor workers and people living in poverty, all of whom have long been shown to be vulnerable to ozone …

“And evidence even shows that otherwise healthy adults can be harmed if they are exercising or working outdoors on days with high ozone.”

Said Sierra Club member Debbie Heaton during the public comment session, “Air doesn’t respect out state lines and our lungs don’t process it differently based on which state its’ coming from.”

While the state could do more to increase its renewable energy goal, Sierra Club member Stephanie Herron was brought to tears when claiming how her athletic 12-year-old family member can’t venture outside some days due to the substandard air quality.

“We (Delaware) can not do it on our own,” she said.

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