This is from an article in the Cape Cod Times:
The Cape has little in the way of a manufacturing industry, and yet along with much of the rest of Massachusetts, it pays for the coal-fired sins of the South and West in terms of its air quality.
The American Lung Association recently released a compendium of its analysis of data from the Environmental Protection Agency from 2008, 2009 and 2010. To no one’s great surprise, the Cape and much of the rest of the state received barely passing grades for its air quality. Some places, including Martha’s Vineyard, received failing grades in terms of summer ozone levels. Ozone is the less offensive, scientific term for smog. It makes it difficult for people to breath, especially those with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.
The bad news is, ozone likes to travel wherever the winds will take it. That’s how it makes its way to us. It is a prime example of the reason environmental concerns need both a local and a global focus; just because you do not have to live with the effects of the pollution you create does not mean you are not creating it. Think of it as plaguing it forward.
There is, however, a bit of sunshine in the midst of this smog report: Things are generally not getting worse. The American Lung Association notes that only one county in the commonwealth has air quality that declined. Everywhere else either improved or remained steady.
Still, as an American Lung Association spokesman pointed out, the sky is a lot clearer than it might have been, thanks to the Clean Air Act. That’s an important fact to remember when politicians start bloviating about the cost of pollution-control devices and their impact on the fragile economic recovery. This is especially true in the energy production sector, which has long decried such restrictions.
Last year, The Associated Press reported that environmental program budgets in 24 states had decreased an average of $12 million in 2011. Federal grants to monitor air and water quality rules had dipped by more than 5 percent in the previous seven years.
Some allege that the motivation behind these cutbacks has been at least as much political as financial; that certain legislators are trying to have an impact on public policy by stripping environmental protection agencies of their ability to monitor violations of both the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. One former secretary of environmental protection in Pennsylvania described the impact of the budget reductions as “a silent train wreck.”
Two important things should be considered as we move forward. The first is that if there is one thing that is more fragile than the nation’s financial recovery, it is its environment. The second is that any short-term economic gains we may realize by letting our environmental regulations slowly choke to death are infinitesimal when compared with the long-term costs to our health.
Knowing that the nation’s clean-air regulations are being followed, both in terms of the letter and spirit of the law, would mean we could all breathe a little easier.