RI, Other Eastern States, Sick of Being 'Tailpipe of America'

The governors of eight East Coast states want the EPA to enact stronger emissions standards in southern and midwestern states.

Patch file photo
Patch file photo

States in the northeast are sick of sucking on the "tailpipe" of polluting states upwind, and have put the federal government on notice that they want action.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee has joined the governors of eight East Coast states in petitioning the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce air pollution produced in southern and midwestern states that travels on the wind to eastern states. The initiative is aimed specifically at Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia that have weaker environmental protections than their counterparts in the east. The pollution is carried by prevailing winds and contributes to the formation of ozone to the north and east. 

"Despite aggressive state and regional efforts to reduce ozone causing emissions within our borders, Rhode Islanders still face bad air days each and every summer because of air pollutants from upwind states," Chafee said in a release. "Stronger controls, including the expansion of the Ozone Transport Region, are needed to level the playing field and improve air quality in downwind states such as Rhode Island."

The petition accuses the midwest and southern states of inaction while Northeast states have enacted strict controls on pollution emissions. Inclusion in the Ozone Transport Region would require those states to enact stronger requirements on companies to use cleaner fuels and curb emissions, similar to laws states in the east enacted long ago.

Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont have joined Rhode Island in requesting EPA action. 

“Connecticut is tired of serving as the tailpipe of America,” Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy said. “We’re paying a steep public health and economic price for the failure of upwind states to make investments needed to operate power plants and industrial facilities in a clean and efficient manner.”

Despite strict controls on Northeast businesses, the failure of midwest and southern states to control pollution exposes Rhode Islanders to unhealthy levels of ozone, which can irritate the respiratory system, causing coughing, throat irritation and chest pains and aggravating asthma and other chronic lung diseases. Ozone and other air pollutants have also been linked to premature death, according to the petition.

New EPA initiatives would also level the playing field for companies in the area, the petition states. Companies in the Northeast must spend $10,000-$40,000 to reduce a ton of pollution from their emissions, while companies in the target states pay as little as $500 per ton, due to lax controls in those states, the governors say.


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