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Michigan assessing impact of stricter "Good Neighbor" rule on cross-state pollution

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Ozone, or smog, is a harmful substance that forms when pollution is exposed to heat and sunlight. Ozone action days are called in Michigan on hot, sunny days to urge people to refrain from lawn mowing and filling up the gas tank to reduce ozone.

Michigan is one of 26 states that may have to reduce pollutants that cause ozone, otherwise known as smog.

The U.S. EPA is proposing to tighten the so-called "Good Neighbor" rule.

That rule makes states responsible for nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, a key component of smog, that drift across their own state lines and cause smog problems in other states. 

Smog is known to be harmful to human health, especially for people with asthma, heart problems, and other health conditions.

Kelly Karll is with the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments. She said previous EPA studies show NOx pollution from Michigan sources contribute to the formation of smog in states as far away as Connecticut and Maryland.

But she points out one of the biggest sources of pollution that causes smog comes from coal-burning power plants -- and at least two will be closed in Southeast Michigan in the next few years.

"So right now, in our region, we may not have, you know, significant impacts from this rule," Karll said.

But Karll notes the rule is being expanded to apply for the first time to other industries that have NOx emissions, like paper mills and concrete manufacturers. She said it's too soon to know if those industries in Michigan will have to reduce their emissions under the rule.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy said it is currently assessing what impacts the rule might have for the state.

Karll says Michigan could also benefit from the rule if other states, like Illinois, have to reduce pollutants that drift across Lake Michigan, and contribute to ozone problems in West Michigan.

According to sources cited in Greenwire, the proposed rule is expected to be challenged in the courts.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Radio. She began her career at Michigan Radio as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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