Long Island Business News: Seratoff: Waiting to inhale

by Commentary

Published: May 18th, 2010

By Mark Seratoff

Here are the combined Nassau and Suffolk numbers for people affected by dirty air from the American Lung Association's recently released report "State of the Air, 2010."

Pediatric asthma: 63,500

Adult asthma: 190,000

Chronic bronchitis: 98,500

Emphysema: 40,300

Cardiovascular disease: 844,000

Dirty air causes pain and suffering, disease and death.

Dirty air results in lost work days due to illness. It increases health care costs, medical insurance and business costs. For every dollar invested in clean air, $3 are saved in health care costs.

We're an Island. Where do we get dirty air? About a third of the pollution comes from vehicles. About a third comes from large stationary sources like power plants and incinerators. About a third blows in from sources west of LI.

With more than a million vehicles, pollution reduction is difficult. Erecting a barrier several miles high to stop pollution from the West is impractical, but lawsuits by New York's attorney general against power plants in Ohio and other out-of-state sources have been successful.

There are only about a dozen large power plants and incinerators in Nassau and Suffolk counties. Controlling them seems to be the most efficient means of cleaning up our air.

Our power plants are more than 50 years old (except the new Caithness plant).

Rebuilding them to current specifications would cut pollution by more than 90 percent and would also yield benefits like job creation, less reliance on foreign oil, fewer blackouts, greater available power and increased tax benefits to communities with power plants.

National Grid and the Long Island Power Authority are deliberating on the sale of these power plants. Their sale should require that they be upgraded to state-of-the-art engineering.

Incinerators are a more insidious cause of toxic air because a greater variety of hazardous air pollutants are discharged for the public to breathe, carcinogens such as mercury, lead, arsenic, nickel, molybdenum, dioxin, ammonia, sulfuric acid, soot and much more. If New York City can close all its incinerators, why can't Long Island?

Yes, cutting pollution will raise costs. Yes, recycling is inconvenient.

Yes, hard choices must be made. But if you or your family are spared bronchitis, asthma, emphysema and heart disease, isn't it worth it?

Mark Seratoff is the coordinator of the Sustainable Energy Alliance of Long Island.

Complete URL: http://libn.com/blog/2010/05/18/seratoff-waiting-to-inhale/