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STAR Program Proves Viability of Air Pollution Reduction Programs in Fighting Climate Change and Environmental Racism

Posted Mar 11 2009 3:13pm

Because the topic of environmental racism has an even greater emotional and political charge than global warming, I have not touched on it until now. However, in many cases, it is far easier to prove than global warming and, of course, the existence of environmental racism is a stain on humanity.

This scourge refers to the fact that many of the byproducts of industrialization are ugly, malodorous or otherwise undesirable. In the case of petroleum refining, the byproducts are carcinogenic and malodorous. Hence, many of the refineries in the United States are deliberately located in low-income neighborhoods which have disproportionately high populations of ethnic minorities such as African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans.

The good news is that fighting the problem can bring ancillary benefits since scrubbing smoke stacks is the best and cleanest practice. Fortunately, the city of Louisville, KY has proved that such an approach can win with its STAR Program. An acronym for Strategic Toxic Air Reduction, the STAR Program began in 2005 and has been an unqualified success, cleaning the air of Louisville quite significantly of, for example, the human carcinogen 1,3-butadiene, which has fallen more than 75%.

I commend Louisville and all of the members of the coalition which was formed to push the STAR Program into fruition. Naturally, the resulting drop in pollution-caused premature deaths downwind of the chemical plants and dry cleaners which have cleaned up their act are a very real and most welcome bonus. This important success proves that no dream for a cleaner, greener future is beyond our reach.

photo credit: Arza Barnett, The Courier-Journal

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