Friday, July 10, 2009

Clean fuel shouldn’t cost air quality

Letter to the Editor:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has made good changes to the gasoline we use in our vehicles.

One of the first changes was to mandate unleaded gasoline, which has provided a healthier environment for us and our children. Then came low-sulfur gasoline, which also introduced ethanol into the product. Now the EPA requires a low-benzene gasoline.

While reduction of volatile organic compounds from our vehicles is an important goal to which we should all do our part to be part of the solution, it should not come at the cost of the little good air that is left in our neighborhoods around refineries.

The air quality in fenceline neighborhoods can be so poor at times that residents shelter themselves in place or hold their noses when they are on the roads that pass through some of the state’s 17 refinery facilities.

Louisiana law prohibits the state Department of Environmental Quality from issuing a permit that maintains a nuisance or a danger to public health and safety, and furthermore, technology exists that could protect public health and reduce toxic air emissions in fenceline communities.

Louisiana DEQ should require extra air monitoring to ensure its 17 refineries’ air permit limits are maintained, and air monitoring may even help the refineries become more efficient.

To protect public health and the quality of air we breathe, the best available technology should be utilized to result in the lowest achievable emission levels. That would be the best approach to maintaining a balance between our residential districts and our heavy-industry neighbors.

Without the installation and maintenance of appropriate pollution controls, the balance will unjustly shift toward industry — as we have so often witnessed — and that undermines our health and safety as well as that of our children.

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