May 24, 2013
Contact: Karl Wagener, Executive Director
Link to full report: www.ct.gov/ceq/AnnualReport
Air Pollution Index page: https://www.ct.gov/ceq/cwp/view.asp?a=4361&q=512320
Air Pollution Paradox: 2012 was Better and Worse
Update to Connecticut’s Environmental Quality Report
HARTFORD – The state Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) released a scheduled update to the state’s annual environmental report for 2012 and found a peculiar trend in Connecticut’s air quality: Our air is getting cleaner, but we keep seeing more bad air days.
“In five of the last six years, the overall level of air quality across Connecticut improved,” the Council said in its update. “However, in four of those five years Connecticut residents breathed unhealthful air on more days than in the previous year.
The Council calls it a “pollution paradox,” and explains it in this way:
“Pollution control measures have been largely successful and they continue to pay big dividends for Connecticut residents on most days of the year. But on certain days – especially the hot sunny ones – we see episodes of excessive pollution that violate the standards established to protect human health,” the Council said.
“This could be a portent of the future. Even as residents do more to reduce pollution, rising temperatures and extreme weather will work against us. Unhealthful pollution episodes are tied mostly to the hottest days (though occasionally to colder days when smoke particles reach unhealthful levels). Sometimes, when it is not particularly hot in Connecticut, the culprit is hot weather to our south and west, where pollution accumulates before blowing this way. To completely vanquish the pollution that dogs us on hot days, Connecticut will need to do three things:
1. Reduce pollution on the hottest days. One way to accomplish this is for residents and businesses to install air conditioners and refrigerators that are energy-efficient. Otherwise, as we see all too often, the excessive electricity demand on hot afternoons causes the most highly-polluting “peaking” power plants to start up. Unfortunately, many if not most of the air conditioners and refrigerators sold in Connecticut are not of the efficient types, so electricity is wasted and excessive air pollution is generated.
2. Continue the battle to reduce emissions in upwind states. Just last week, Connecticut and New Jersey officials announced a settlement of a lawsuit that requires a power plant in Pennsylvania to stop burning coal.
3. Maintain and enforce the routine air pollution control programs that keep the air healthful on most days.”
The CEQ also said that it removed lead from its annual air pollution index because the concentration of lead in Connecticut’s air has become so low that in recent years it has barely registered in the multi-pollutant index. “The removal of lead from our air since the 1980s is a triumph of political will and technological advancement,” the Council said.
The CEQ published Environmental Quality in Connecticut, the state’s annual report on environmental conditions, in April before final air quality data for 2012 were available. Because the report is an online publication, the CEQ can update it as new data become available. The CEQ expects to publish its second and final update in June. The CEQ encourages readers to sign up for e-alerts on its website to be notified when updates are published.
The Council on Environmental Quality submits Connecticut’s annual report on the status of the environment to the Governor pursuant to state statutes. Additional responsibilities of the Council include review of construction projects of other state agencies, publication of the twice-monthly Environmental Monitor, and investigation of citizens’ complaints and allegations of violations of environmental laws. The Council is a nine-member board that is independent of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (except for administrative functions). The chairman and four other members are appointed by the Governor, two members by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and two by the Speaker of the House.
The annual report, Environmental Quality in Connecticut, is available on the Council’s website at www.ct.gov/ceq/AnnualReport.