Cleaner air is good for all of us

Probably only in small ways, the lives of all of us are going to get a little more difficult over the next several years. The sacrifices, though, will be small compared to the lives we save and the breaths we make easier.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which the Trump administration has not destroyed yet, has decided that much of southern Michigan needs to do more to curb ground-level ozone. That includes St. Clair County. The ruling means that we too often breathe air that contains too much ozone and too much smog.

Ground-level ozone forms when man-made air pollutants, such as those emitted by industrial processes and motor vehicles, combine with heat and humidity. The resulting smog is bad for all of us, but it is especially hazardous for sensitive groups, including young people, the elderly and people with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer.

St. Clair County not only has high levels of ground-level ozone, it also has above-average numbers of people suffering those diseases. It is important that all of do what we can to protect our neighbors with those conditions and to perhaps prevent future cases.

Our air quality problems are not entirely of our own making. Some of our air pollution blows here from the more densely industrialized and populated counties to our south and west. They are also part of the nonattainment area and will have to live with their own prescriptions. The state of Michigan has a three-year deadline for coming up with a plan to fix the problem.

But we do our share of dirtying the air in St. Clair County. We have industries — notably DTE Energy’s coal-fired power plants — that contribute substantial quantities of ozone-forming pollutants to our air. As DTE replaces those plants with a cleaner gas-fired power plant and renewable wind and solar generation over the next several years, that part should begin to take care of itself.

Likewise, as auto manufacturers produced increasingly more fuel-efficient and clean-running cars and trucks — and as we replace our older vehicles — that is another pollution source that should help remedy itself and help us all breathe easier.

But those things probably will not be enough. It is too early to guess what will be in the state’s compliance plan. But it will likely include things that some of us won’t like.

New and existing industries will likely be required to install expensive pollution controls, which will likely affect investment, profits and jobs. Motorists may face new inspection and monitoring requirements and may have to pay for new fuel formulations.

There will be costs and inconveniences. But we’ll be able to relax with just a deep breath.

— Times Herald (Port Huron)


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