New York State urges EPA to enact stronger air pollution regulations

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos is calling on US Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy in regards to current emission and fuel standards throughout the nation. Recently, emissions have been exceeding thresholds country-wide with site-specific violations happening throughout Region 2 (which includes New York State).

More specifically, crude oil transportation is a hot-button issue. In Albany’s South End, violations are leading to concerns from residents in the area. EPA Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck plans to hold a meeting before the end of this month for the residents of the public housing development located near  the crude oil transport lines to discuss the air pollution caused by diesel trucks and oil transport trains.

Currently, the DEC is using a portion of the Environmental Protection Fund to implement a new $500,000 environmental improvement program for Albany’s South End which will include additional air monitoring technologies to understand the true impact of the diesel emissions throughout the neighborhood.  What makes this so important for the South End is that it is one of the environmental justice communities where the population is mostly low-income and minority residents, located near an industry eligible for government protections.

While pressuring the EPA to strengthen nation-wide emissions and fuel standards, the DEC is joining forces to take control of pollution in the area. The DEC is performing unannounced inspections and implementing more frequent checkpoints, ensuring that diesel emissions are meeting federal and state standards. The EPA is taking action on oil train operations throughout all of Albany, serving Global Companies LLC with documents informing them they are violating the Clean Air Act, which could lead to $25,000 per day fines while emissions are above the threshold.

The call to action on the EPA to re-evaluate current standards comes from air quality studies performed at the University of Albany that contradict the DEC’s 2014 air monitoring program’s findings. While the DEC stated that air quality did not pose any health threats, the UA study indicated that residents who live near the Port of Albany and the crude oil operations that occur there are facing a proportionally higher chance of exposure to benzene and other pollutants linked to cancer and other respiratory diseases.  The results led to a permanent air monitor installed in the area in early 2015.

The current push towards stronger emissions standards is not only going to benefit the area of Albany, but impact  environmental justice communities nation-wide. By improving air quality, public health concerns will decrease, leading to a more sustainable and healthy future.  By spending less on healthcare, residents will be able to build a stronger, more resilient community – a major theme throughout the planet.