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E-M:/ Sandy Sillman, Ph.D., UM-Atmospheric Scientist -- OpEd on Ozone and Nitrogen Oxides

Enviro-Mich message from asagady@sojourn.com

Reprinted with permission of the author.....

Date: Wed, 18 Mar 1998 15:02:14 -0500
From: Sandy Sillman <sillman@kudzu.sprl.umich.edu>
To: asagady@sojourn.com
Subject: Ozone editorial
Return-Path: sillman@kudzu.sprl.umich.edu

My editorial on ozone in Michigan was published Friday the 13th - I think 
you all had requested electronic copies.  Here it is:  

Detroit Free Press, Friday, March 13, 1998.

                             by Sanford Sillman

After twenty-five years of neglect, the United States finally seems poised to
do something about the air pollution that plagues both cities and countryside
in the East, South and Midwest.

The Environmental Protection Agency has presented a plan that calls for
reductions in smog-producing emissions. Most eastern states have supported this
plan, which promises to finally bring air quality to acceptable levels.
Unfortunately, Michigan has emerged as a leader of the few states that
prefer to keep the air dirty.

The history of pollution control efforts has been largely a
story of failure.  Since the passage of the first Clean Air Act in 1970
most major metropolitan areas have continually violated health standards.
Detroit is a rare exception, having dropped into compliance in the 1990s.
However a recent Harvard University study found that in most of the country,
including Detroit and the rest of Michigan, there was no significant
improvement in air quality between 1980 and 1995.

Over the past ten years, research (including my doctoral dissertation)
has identified nitrogen oxides as the primary cause of ozone smog.
The EPA has finally recognized that controls on nitrogen oxides are necessary
if clean air standards are to be met.

Equally important, the EPA has come to recognize the central feature of ozone
smog:  Each city and state pollutes its downwind neighbor.
Pollution in Michigan is partly the result of emissions
in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.  Emissions from Ann Arbor contribute to
pollution in Detroit.  And Detroit's emissions cause widespread pollution
in neighboring Ontario.  In this situation, the EPA and many states have
recognized that we must act together, each state agreeing to stop polluting
its neighbor in exchange for not being polluted itself.

Sadly, Michigan has failed to recognize this.  The state Department of
Environmental Quality opposes the clean air plan, and the state House agrees.
Now the dirty-air resolution is in the Senate.  The Detroit Free Press
editorialized that Michigan "should not be punished for air pollution in
New York and Massachusetts".  The editorial also asked the EPA to take
 "a little more time" to study the problem - as though 25 years were not enough.

Opponents of the new clean air regulations forget Detroit's
long record of air quality violations.  Detroit was declared in compliance
with clean air laws for the first time in 1995, but this was the result of
unusually favorable weather during 1992-94.  Now, under a recent change
in the form of the clean air standards - which more accurately reflect the
true health effects of air pollution - much of southern Michigan will be back
in violation.  And don't forget Ontario, where repeated
violations of air quality standards (along with damage to agricultural crops)
are due largely to emissions in Michigan.

One of the most common misconceptions in the clean air debate
is the claim that reducing nitrogen oxide emissions
causes a "disbenefit" in air quality, by actually causing
smog levels to go up.  There is a tiny grain of truth to this claim -
nitrogen oxide emissions sometimes do cause a temporary decrease in ozone.
But the "disbenefit" occurs because the ozone is converted to nitrogen dioxide,
another air pollutant with its own serious health effects.
In addition, as nitrogen oxide plumes move downwind, the temporary decrease
in ozone is not sustained and large amounts of additional ozone smog are

How much will clean air cost Michigan?  Not being an economist,
I can't guess.  But I will venture the following prediction.
If EPA gives final approval to the clean air plan, we will soon learn
of breakthroughs that reduce the cost of compliance to a fraction of
what was previously estimated, just as occurred when requirements
for acid rain and other pollutants came into effect after 1990.

Here's hoping that Michigan chooses to become part of the clean air
solution rather than to be part of the problem.

Sanford Sillman is an associate research scientist at the
University of Michigan (Ann Arbor).  He is an expert on ozone transport.

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