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By Jim Merkel, Global Living Project Director, Dartmouth College

American Lung Association comes out against a proposed plant in Massachusetts

ALAM Statement for Russell Biomass DTE Hearing September 13, 2006
My name is Jeff Seyler - I'm the CEO of the American Lung Association of Massachusetts, or the ALA, and we thank you for the opportunity to voice our concerns.

The American Lung Association is concerned about adding thousands of pounds of pollutants into the air in the Pioneer Valley area, which already has some of the dirtiest air in the state. According to the American Lung Association's “State of the Air Report” this year, where counties across the country are graded and ranked, Hampden County was graded F, and ranked as one of the worst counties in the country with regard to particulate matter air pollution. In fact, the EPA itself has proposed an even stricter standard for particle pollution than the ALA used to grade Hampden County an F. So we are in a situation where this area is already ranked poorly for air quality under the current air standard, and the standard will only be getting tighter and stricter. There is widespread agreement that the air standard is not tight enough, and the ALA obviously supports the adoption of stricter air standards to make it safer for people to breathe.

It is important to note that both ozone and particle pollution have been scientifically linked, in several different studies, to shortness of breath and other serious health effects, and even premature death.

In addition to having poor air quality, Hampden County also has some of the highest asthma rates in the state. The ALA believes that there is a correlation between the poor air quality and the high asthma rates that we see in our communities in the region. We are very concerned about adding pollutants to the air, which can exacerbate our already poor air quality, and cause asthma rates to rise further. Asthma is a serious condition that causes shortness of breath and, when exacerbated by outside factors, affects the quality of life of thousands of people across the state, especially here in the Pioneer Valley.

Because NOx emissions from this plant are expected to exceed the threshold of 50 tons/year, it will need to purchase emission offsets from other plants that pollute less. The ALA and other environmental organizations commonly refer to these offsets as credits, and we understand that they can be purchased from as far as 100 miles away. The ALA looks at this practice as literally buying the right to pollute. We feel that this practice places the burden of breathing these additional pollutants on the residents of Russell, Westfield, and the rest of the Pioneer Valley area.

The bottom line is that we want to have less pollutants in the air, not more.
By adding more pollutants, especially in a non-attainment area, we are building a larger air quality problem that we will have to solve in the future, especially as the air standards become even stricter.

Thank you for your time.

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