Clean-air activists say the health of Tampa's children would benefit from air pollution regulations

09/21/11 Josh Holton
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The EPA is under attack this week as new legislation threatens to delay new air pollution rules. But the White House and several environmental groups are fighting back, and demanding cleaner skies, and less pollution. Two local environmental groups met this morning in Tampa’s Ballast Point Park playground, where they say more children would play, if it weren’t for the smog.

President Barack Obama is caught between a rock and a hard place. Republicans like Presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann have proposed renaming the Environmental Protection Agency "the job killing organization of America,” but environmental groups like the Sierra Club also condemn Obama for failing to put limits on smog from power plants in the US. Environment Florida’s Paul Rolfe said the people who will suffer most from this decision are the 1 in 10 American children who have asthma.

Last Wednesday and Friday ozone levels were around 111 parts per billion in Tampa. That’s double the safe levels for asthmatic children. And Wolfe said national pollution isn’t looking much better.

Following Obama’s postponement of national smog limits, this week the House of Representatives will consider “The Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation Act”, or the TRAIN Act, and its dozens of proposed amendments. Wolfe is concerned that this will be an additional step back from current pollution limits.

The Sierra Club’s Phil Compton said that public transportation is one way that people can cut back on local pollution. He encourages people to go to the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority final budget meeting next Monday.

Tampa is the second most dangerous city in the US for pedestrians after Orlando, but a transit overhaul proposed last year to fund local rail and pedestrian improvements was rejected. Compton said that while money was saved in the short term, there are even more health costs associated with no major reductions in local fossil fuel emissions.

The EPA estimates that a Cross-State Pollution Rule to reduce pollution limits that cross state lines will prevent up to 34,000 premature deaths, and 400,000 cases of aggravated asthma. This rule plus a limit on Mercury emissions could be delayed by the TRAIN Act.

Also at the playground was Dr. Luis Maldonado, who works in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of South Florida. He sees about 12,000 children annually; 40% of whom have breathing difficulties.

Wednesday morning a White House official said “the administration will continue to take steps to defend the authority of the Clean Air Act.” The White House is threatening to veto the TRAIN Act which Republicans say is needed to prevent costly regulations.

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