2. Reducing criteria pollutants improves air quality and public health
Transportation, also referred to as mobile sources, represents the largest source of air pollution in New Jersey. Cars, trucks, buses, off-road vehicles, locomotives, marine engines and planes are all considered mobile sources of air pollution. While emissions from individual cars and vehicles are relatively low, there are millions of diesel and gasoline vehicles travelling in and through New Jersey every day emitting thousands of tons of pollutants. These include particulate matter, oxides of nitrogen, air toxics and greenhouse gases. Every year, hundreds of New Jerseyans die prematurely and thousands suffer heart and lung illnesses due to these pollutants.
In addition, fleet emissions are a particular problem for overburdened communities (OBC). Many of these communities are located near freight corridors, ports and distribution centers and are disproportionately exposed to harmful pollutant levels. New Jersey's groundbreaking Environmental Justice Law requires DEP to evaluate the contributions of certain facilities to existing environmental and public health stressors in overburdened communities when reviewing certain permit applications. An overburdened community (OBC), as defined by law, is any census block group, in accordance with the most recent United States Census, in which:
- At least 35 percent of the households qualify as low-income households (at or below twice the poverty threshold as determined by the United States Census Bureau);
- At least 40 percent of the residents identify as minority or as members of a state recognized tribal community; or
- At least 40 percent of the households have limited English proficiency (without an adult that speaks English "very well" according to the United States Census Bureau).
The Federal Clean Air Act requires the United State Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) to set National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for six common "criteria" air pollutants: particulate matter (PM), ground-level ozone, carbon monoxide (CO), sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and lead. These pollutants can harm your health, the environment, and cause property damage. The U.S. EPA calls these pollutants "criteria" air pollutants because it regulates them by developing human health-based and/or environmentally based criteria (science-based guidelines) to set permissible concentrations.