Canton Repository

December 17, 2002

U.S. approves Ohio plan to cut smog 

Copley Washington correspondent

WASHINGTON — The federal government has accepted Ohio’s plan to reduce by 70 percent nitrogen-oxide emissions, a key pollutant that triggers smog, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Monday.

“In 2004, you will start to see lower ozone values because of this regulation,” said Doug Aburano, an EPA environmental engineer.

Ozone pollution — or smog — forms on hot summer days when nitrogen oxide combines with other chemicals in the atmosphere. Smog can cause breathing problems, asthma, reduced resistance to colds and other health problems.

The plan will reduce nitrogen-oxide emissions from power plants, industrial boilers and cement plants by about 120,000 tons annually beginning in 2004.

“The new rules are a significant accomplishment,” Ohio EPA Director Christopher Jones said in a prepared statement. “This plan will be a great benefit to Ohio citizens, who will breathe cleaner air, and experience less ozone pollution.”

The biggest producers of nitrogen oxide in Ohio include Columbus-based American Electric Power, one of the nation’s largest generators of electricity.

“We’ll be spending hundreds of millions of dollars” installing technology to reduce emissions, said Pat Hemlepp, spokesman for AEP. The company will use what he described as an industrial-size version of a catalytic converter, which he said breaks down nitrogen oxide into its nitrogen and oxide components.

Although the company would have liked to see some parts of the plan “tweaked,” Hemlepp said, “all in all, we can live with it and we’re going to have to.”

Environmental groups had kind words for the program.

“The fact that this is moving forward will hopefully produce some relief starting in 2004,” said Kurt Waltzer, air program coordinator for the Ohio Environmental Council. Ohio is among 19 states in the Midwest, East and the District of Columbia ordered by the federal government to reduce smog.

Waltzer said Ohio will benefit more than any other state from the regulations, which will curb ozone pollution that drifts into Ohio from Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky. Smog from Ohio drifts into the East and Mid-Atlantic region.

Under the state’s “cap and trade” program, utilities and companies that produce less than their limit of nitrogen oxide will earn credits they can sell to other companies that generate more than the allowed levels of nitrogen oxide.

One percent of the trading budget will be set aside for facilities that cut their demand for electricity or that use wind or solar power, or landfill methane gas as a source of power.