Cumberland Times-News

December 15, 2013

Clean air

Maryland would like to get us some more of it

Cumberland Times-News

— Anyone who’s lived downwind of a pig or poultry farm — or a neighbor who’s not particular about what he burns in his fireplace or wood stove — can appreciate the situation in which Maryland finds itself. It lives downwind of other states whose air pollution is fouling what Maryland and its citizens breathe.

Maryland and some other states have petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to enforce laws that are already on the books and require states that lie upwind to reduce the pollution generated within their borders.

Call it our version of not wanting to inhale someone else’s second-hand tobacco smoke.

It’s a reasonable request, considering the fortunes that Maryland and the other petitioners — Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont — have spent cleaning up their own messes, while the alleged offenders have spent relatively little.

Although Maryland power plants have invested $2.6 billion in technology that will comply with the Maryland Healthy Air Act, it still suffers from ground-level ozone levels that violate EPA standards. What’s the source of this excess ozone? Not Maryland.

Petitioners want the EPA to add the offending upwind polluters to what’s known as the Ozone Transport Region, which would require them to take actions that are consistent with those already taken by the states unfortunate enough to lie downwind of them.

Who are the offenders? The petition names Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

Some of these aren’t exactly next-door neighbors. However, prevailing winds and air currents pay no more heed to the borders between states than the fragrances generated by pig and poultry farms and smelly wood stoves are mindful of the average fence.

It is said that good fences make for good neighbors. There are times when good fences aren’t enough.

Air pollution can cause asthma, respiratory disease and other problems. Let’s give credit to Maryland’s officials for trying to improve our collective health by taking steps to make other states do something they should have done a long time ago — clean up their own messes.