Albany Times Union (Letter to the editor): Clear the air, for New York's sake

(April 2, 2011)

The March 23 commentary, "Air standards benefit health and economy," by Judith Enck, Region 2 administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, illustrates the EPA's important role in enforcing the Clean Air Act and protecting New Yorkers' health.

The agency's proposed air toxic standards would prevent an estimated 17,000 premature deaths and 120,000 incidents of childhood asthma symptoms nationally each year.

Yet instead of recognizing the EPA for its good work, House members, including Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, voted in favor of HR1. It would decimate the agency's budget, usurp its power and prevent it from updating standards that protect our health. This is wrong.

Our State of the Air Report showed that 12 million New Yorkers live in counties with failing air quality. If plants were to install modern pollution controls, we could reduce this number.

Yet if EPA's enforcement ability is compromised, the progress we've made in cleaning our air -- and the hopes we have of further improving its quality -- could come to an abrupt halt. That would be tragic.

In a state where 2.5 million residents suffer from lung disease and all of us breathe in toxins emitted by dirty coal-fired plants, more protective standards are essential and enforcement is necessary.

We commend Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, for voting against HR1. We urge our U.S senators to follow his example and reject this bill.

Irwin Berlin, M.D.
Board chairman
American Lung Association in New York
Albany



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