US and Canada pledge to cut smog pollution

The Governments of the United States and Ontario, the most polluted Canadian province, have finalised a draft agreement which aims to cut the incidence of smog in the industrial heartlands of both countries.

The cross-border agreement, finalised on 13 October, will require power plants and other stationary sources to cut their nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by 50 to 75% by 2004. The US has pledged to reduce NOx emissions by 35% by 2007, implying a 70% reduction from power plants and major industrial sources. Pennsylvania and Ohio are among the 18 northern and northeastern states that must begin reducing emissions by 2004.

On the other side of the border, Ontario must cut its emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx) by 50%, and according to Environment Canada, the Governmental Environment Ministry, transboundary smog accounts for anything from 30 to 70% of the dirty air in eastern Canada.

“The reductions specified in the final draft, combined with domestic actions…will reduce premature deaths caused by dirty air and result in fewer hospital admissions for Canadians with respiratory problems,” Canadian Environment Minister David Anderson said. A few days later, a damning report on the health effects of US power stations was released by a leading health consulting firm (see this week’s stories).

Both sides also pledged to cut production of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which, when combined with nitrogen oxides in sunlight, create ground-level ozone. In addition, Canada also plans to tighten its vehicle emission standards and bring them into line with those in the US.

Official approval of the agreement, which also commits the two countries to ongoing pollution reduction, is expected to take place in Ottawa in early December.

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