The State of the Air annual report was released by the American Lung Association today. It states that 4 out of 10 people in the United States do not have healthy levels of ozone (smog) or particle (soot) pollution. In Mercer, Monmouth, Hunterdon, Middlesex, and Ocean Counties the county received an F for Ozone and have had dozens of High Alert Ozone Days that risk public health. Burlington and Somerset County’s air was not monitored, but it is likely an F given nearby county grades. Every year, this report examines air pollution levels and shows the need to defend the Clean Air Act. Some cities in the report got worse, however, citing spikes in particle pollution and high smog days as a result of climate change. Newark and Camden also were rated with some of the worst polluted cities in the nation. Air pollution not only has significant health impacts, but it is an irritant for people at risk it. This can actually cause asthma attacks sending people to the hospitals. It is also linked to premature death through heart attacks.

“This report is a warning that our air is unhealthy to our lungs. In another alarm bell going off for clean air, central New Jersey’s air continues to have a failing grade. When it comes to ozone levels, almost every county that conducts monitoring has levels that are dangerous to our public health. One of the biggest pollution problems we face in New Jersey is from mobile sources like trucks and buses, but this administration has blocked electric vehicles and funding for public transit. While the Administration has promoted dirty fuels, we have more fine particulates from natural gas power plants and pipelines that add to ozone pollution. Climate change has also put us at more risk to ground level ozone problems because we have hotter days and longer summers, but our Governor refuses to reduce climate impacts,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Now with President Trump’s plan to rollback environmental protections, our air will be even dirtier. Trump wants to eliminate the Clean Power Plan, while rolling back the Ozone and Mercury and Air Toxic Rules. Along with his cuts in the EPA budget, this will lead to more asthma attacks, sick days, and respiratory illnesses for New Jersey residents, while children will experience other health effects.”

Under the Clean Power Plan, the U.S would cut carbon emissions from power plants by 32% from the 2005 levels. The Clean Power Plan would help avoid 3,600 premature deaths, 90,000 asthma attacks in children and deliver total health benefits of $14 billion to $34 billion in 2030 to the American people. In addition, average electric utility bills for consumers were projected to decline by more than $80 per year when the Clean Power Plan is fully implemented. New Jersey was originally one of the 11 states that sued the EPA to issue a carbon rule to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. We won the victory in 2007 at the U.S. Supreme Court during the Massachusetts vs. EPA case. However, Governor Christie was one of 27 Republican Governors suing to block the Plan to try turn that case on its head.

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“Now New Jersey is even more at risk to bad air days with President Trump. What our President is doing is siding with corporate polluters, especially from the oil, coal, and gas industry over our public health. Trump is trying to eliminate the Clean Power Plan, which would reduce pollution from power plants, while rolling back the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule and the Mercury Air Toxic Rule. In New Jersey, this means we will see more toxic pollution in our lungs from other states in the Mid-West and Pennsylvania. Instead of moving forward with green jobs that will boost our economy, we will have more dirty air and more health problems,” said Jeff Tittel. “These policies would help reduce pollution in New Jersey, but significantly reduce pollution in other states that impact our lungs. The problem is that with Trump in office, he is working to eliminate these vital programs that clean our air, while cutting enforcement to make sure polluters aren’t polluting more than they should be.”

Governor Christie closed the DEP’s Office of Climate Change, pulled the state out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and doesn’t believe in the science of climate change. At the same time, this administration has blocked attempts to promote electric vehicles and charging stations and has even cut services and raised fares on public transit. The EPA’s Cross State Pollution rule helps protect air quality in downwind states by limiting the amount of pollution that can be produced in other states. However, Governor Christie played to national political interests and polluters instead of stand up for New Jersey and blocked it.

“With New Jersey having some of the worst air quality in the nation Governor Christie should be working to protect our health and our lungs instead of siding with polluters and Big Oil. The administration has weakened protections in inspections, allows polluters to write their own rules, have done nothing to address fine particulates, privatized air permits, blocked offshore wind, and pulled out of RGGI, all which would make our air better. Instead of making our air cleaner, the Christie Administration has only adopted federal standards for our air, not the stricter New Jersey standard, which is not addressing the problems that threaten our air,” said Jeff Tittel. “With all of Governor Christie’s policies and environmental weakening including raiding clean energy money, and delaying the Sulfur Rule all of which in the long term will give us more air pollution. The problem is Christie catering to polluters has cause more dirty air for the people of New Jersey.”

In 2012, the administration backed out of the ground level ozone lawsuit that affected the health of children, people with asthma, elderly, and those with repository illnesses. It not only has significant health impacts, but it is an irritant for people at risk it which can actually cause asthma attacks sending people to the hospitals. It is also linked to premature death through heart attacks or asthma attacks. Areas across the country with high levels of zone have 30% higher rate of death from lung disease. The main sources are from industrial plants and cars.

“Trump and Christie have worked to dismantle clean air protections, which leaves the people of New Jersey to suffer. It is bad enough that we have had to deal with the Christie Administration’s dangerous air quality policies, but now we have a President who is working to ending half a dozen programs to reduce air pollution. Even though New Jersey was one of the original states to sue the EPA to require a rule to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Governor Christie switched sides and sued against the Clean Power Plan. That is why it is so important other states along with Sierra Club go to Court against Trump’s rollbacks,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “We thank the American Lung Association for doing this report every year. It is a reminder that we still have a long way to go on air pollution.”

To access the report, please visit: http://www.lung.org/our-initiatives/healthy-air/sota/city-rankings/states/new-jersey/.