NEW JERSEY – Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe is marking Air Quality Awareness Week by affirming the state’s commitment to cleaner air and addressing climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions. She also asked residents to be mindful of steps they can take to help make our air healthier, at the same time helping to fight global warming.
“Improving air quality and reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases are public health and environmental priorities of the Murphy Administration,” Commissioner McCabe said. “Like so many environmental protection efforts, improving New Jersey’s air quality and investing in technologies that reduce pollution and greenhouse gases are important parts of the state’s economic development. This is why the state is moving forward aggressively on a number of air-quality fronts, such as rejoining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and accelerating the electrification of the transportation sector. Air Quality Awareness Week is also a great time for residents to make changes that can help make our air healthier.”
National Air Quality Awareness Week runs through Friday and coincides with the start of the ground-level ozone season. Ground-level ozone, or smog, is a respiratory irritant formed by the interaction of certain pollutants, hot weather and sunshine. Exhaust from gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles is the single biggest source of the pollutants that contribute to the formation of smog. These vehicles are also the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the state.
A strong respiratory irritant, smog can bring on asthma attacks and adversely affect the health of sensitive individuals, including those with respiratory and heart illnesses, older people and children. Ground-level ozone has been linked to cardiovascular disease and premature death.
The DEP maintains a color-coded health advisory system (see accompanying graphic) that correspond to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index (AQI) for communicating air quality conditions. Conditions are updated daily at nj.gov/dep/.
Through information on the website, the public, especially most at-risk populations, can make informed choices about when to modify their outdoor activities to reduce their exposure to unhealthy air quality and avoid a potential health risk.
New Jersey is a national leader in improving air quality and was one of the first states to adopt an air pollution control law with the passage in 1954 of the New Jersey Air Pollution Control Act. This law established the framework for the state’s air pollution standards and goals.
Tremendous progress has been made since that time and, under Governor Murphy, New Jersey continues to affirm its leadership on air quality initiatives by rejoining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, a multi-state and market-based effort to reduce carbon emissions from power plants, and by developing innovative programs to accelerate the electrification of the state’s transportation sector.
Among recent significant clean air actions taken by the Administration are:
- The DEP, New Jersey Board of Public Utilities and New Jersey Economic Development Authority last month released a formal plan for investing the state’s proceeds from RGGI auctions to be used toward projects that spur clean and equitable transportation by assisting the transition to electric transportation throughout the state, with a focus on projects that help environmental justice communities.
- Governor Murphy in January issued an Executive Order directing the DEP to launch NJ-Protecting Against Climate Threats (NJ-PACT), a targeted regulatory reform effort that will modernize environmental laws and regulations to help government, businesses and residents effectively respond to current climate threats and reduce future climate damages.
- In January, Governor Murphy signed landmark legislation setting aggressive goals for New Jersey electric vehicle sales and public charging stations, requiring the establishment of rebates for electric vehicle purchases, and directing the state to electrify its fleet.
- Last June, the DEP joined the New Jersey Economic Development Authority and the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities in a Partnership to Plug-In Memorandum of Understanding, which helps coordinate each agency’s efforts to electrify the transportation sector.
- In December, New Jersey signed a Statement of Intent to accelerate deployment of medium- and heavy-duty zero-emission vehicles through a collaborative process facilitated by the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM).
- On Earth Day, April 22, the DEP published a request for $45 million in project applications such as electric bus and truck purchases and charging-station infrastructure. The funds come from New Jersey’s share of a national settlement with Volkswagen, which equipped vehicles with systems designed to defeat emissions testing programs across the nation. These projects will focus on environmental justice communities.
Reducing air pollution can be achieved by everyone through simple and smart choices such as:
- Keeping your vehicle maintenance up-to-date.
- Obeying state law by not idling your vehicle for more than three minutes and encourage your local government to enforce the law, as well as implement diesel reduction measures.
- Turning off lights when you leave a room.
- Turning off the air conditioner when you leave the house.
- Buying clothing that doesn’t require dry cleaning.
- Avoiding cleaners, paints or pesticides that are reliant on volatile organic compounds, which are emitted as gases that can persist in the air long after they are applied.
- Burning only dry, well-seasoned hardwood, and avoid wood burning on bad air days.
Each day of Air Quality Awareness Week has a special theme designed to help residents better understand air quality issues and take action. For more tips and information, click here.
Residents can sign up for air quality information and alerts through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s EnviroFlash system at enviroflash.info.