The United States and Canada announced detailed plans yesterday to work together more closely to fight air pollution in border areas.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman and Canadian Environment Minister David Anderson said they have introduced three pilot programs to study how the two countries can cooperate to decrease air emissions and pollutants that cross the border.
“Air pollution does not respect geopolitical boundaries,” Mrs. Whitman said during a press conference at the Canadian Embassy. “Protecting the public health of our border communities while protecting economic growth is certainly possible.”
The programs represent the first stage of a revamped joint effort to improve border air quality that was announced in January. Mrs. Whitman will have additional meetings with Mexican and Canadian officials this week to discuss curbing air pollution.
The programs are one of Mrs. Whitman’s last initiatives as EPA administrator. She steps down at the end of this week to join the International Republican Institute and will head a group observing Cambodia’s July election.
Air pollutants are blamed for increasing smog, acid rain and fine particles that harm humans, and, Mr. Anderson said, have decreased tourism. Border regions have seen unusually high numbers of smog alerts in recent years.
Mrs. Whitman said industrial growth and more trade under NAFTA, the 1993 agreement by Canada, Mexico and the United States to end all tariffs between the North American countries, “have significantly impacted urban and regional air quality along the U.S.-Canadian border.”
The new programs provide for health studies, development of joint management strategies, information exchange and public outreach.
They will not improve air quality by themselves, Mr. Anderson said, but “will pave the way for further reductions” in air pollutants.
The first new program will address air pollution in northwestern Washington state and southwestern British Columbia over the Puget Sound and Georgia Basin.
The second will consider how to jointly manage air pollution over southeastern Michigan and southwestern Ontario in the Great Lakes region.
A third will examine the feasibility of applying a credit-trading system used elsewhere to emissions of nitrogen oxide and sulphur dioxide, two pollutants that cause smog.
Mr. Anderson said there are already several programs in place that will lead to significant improvement in air quality in the near term.
In all three programs, the two countries will work with local governments and small- and medium-sized businesses to find the best ways to fight pollution.