New Air Report Shows NJ Still an “F” – Worst Air Quality in Nation

The American Lung Association released its 2020 State of the Air report showing New Jersey continues to have some of the most polluted air in the nation. Nine counties in New Jersey earned F’s for ground-level ozone pollution, also known as smog. There were some areas of improvement, with twelve counties earning A’s for high particle pollution days.

“The Lung Association report shows once again that we are one of the worst metropolitan areas in the nation for ground-level ozone. This should be an alarm bell going off that we need to do more because most of the people of New Jersey are still choking on exhaust fumes. Ozone directly affects our lungs, causes children to have asthma attacks, and can even kill people who have respiratory diseases. During the current health emergency this is even more important because a recent Harvard study linked coronavirus risk to air pollution,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “In parts of the state with some of the worst air quality in the nation, we are still pushing projects forward that will make air quality worse, including an LNG terminal, Meadowlands power plant, multiple pipelines, and widening projects for the Turnpike, GS Parkway, and AC Expressway.”

All counties in New Jersey except for Warren County were in metro areas ranked among the worst 25 in the nation for ground-level ozone. Nine counties in the state received ‘F’ grades for ground-level ozone, with only two counties receiving a grade higher than a ‘C’. A prime source of ground-level ozone pollution is vehicle emissions.

“We have seen some improvements, especially in more rural and suburban areas in New Jersey. This is largely because of going after dirty diesel and coal plants in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. In Warren County, air quality improved because the two coal plants in Pennsylvania that contributed to the air pollution closed down. However, all of that progress could be undone by Trump’s rollbacks. Other improvements could be wiped out by the dozens of fossil fuel projects going forward in New Jersey,” said Tittel. “Unless the state starts acting more aggressively to reduce ozone pollution we will continue to see a bigger impact on public health, and our lungs.”

NJ Turnpike Authority and South Jersey Transportation Authority are both moving forward with highway widening plans that will increase Vehicle Miles Travelled and greenhouse gas emissions exponentially. Dozens of fossil fuel projects are still being built in NJ, including the Southern Reliability Link pipeline, NJ Transit’s power plant in the Meadowlands, and Williams Transco NESE Project.

“We already have failing grades for pollution and it will only get worse if we allow the dozens of proposed pipelines and power plants to be built. Projects like the LNG terminal in Gibbstown, NJNG’s SRL pipeline, Williams Transco NESE project, and the PennEast pipeline are still pushing ahead despite the public health emergency and the need to drastically lower our emissions to deal with climate change. That’s why a moratorium on all fossil-fuel projects in the state is so important. Bergen County is still receiving an ‘F’ for ozone, and the Meadowlands power plant will only make it worse. Middlesex County’s air is an ‘F’ and they’re dealing with another proposed pipeline, two power plants, and widenings on the GS Parkway,” said Jeff Tittel. “What little progress we’re making will be quickly reversed.”

North Jersey is ranked the 12th worst metropolitan area in the U.S. for ozone levels, which is slightly improved from last year. The main ingredient in smog that can trigger asthma attacks in the estimated 650,000 state residents who suffer from the disease. In New Jersey, air pollution has led to asthma in children and adults, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and lung cancer.

“Air pollution can cause asthma attacks and put people with heart problems, lung problems or children at risk. It is also linked to premature death through heart attacks and respiratory problems. In New Jersey, asthma attacks from ozone kill 100 children every year. During this public health emergency, if at-risk people are infected with the coronavirus the impacts of air pollution can be deadly. New Jersey needs to move quickly to reduce our air pollution,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Governor Murphy can put a moratorium on all fossil fuel projects, DEP can move forward with regulating GHG’s and methane, and the state can move forward with EV technology.”

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