Every Rhode Island county with an air quality monitoring device had slightly more smoggy days this year compared to last year, according to a report issued this year by the American Lung Association. The state will likely see those smoggy days dwindle in the future.
This week, the Supreme Court upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate power plant emissions that cross state lines and pollute the air in neighboring states with smog and soot. The EPA's regulation is known as the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, or the "good neighbor" rule.
Emissions from coal plants in Midwestern and Appalachian states have contributed to unhealthy air days in Rhode Island, according to Art Handy, regional coordinator for the American Lung Association’s Healthy Air campaign. He said the Supreme Court decision will benefit all the Northeastern states, especially Rhode Island.
“It will make it easier for us to reach our ozone goals in terms of many fewer ozone alert days, many fewer days where we are worried about particulates," said Handy, who is also a state representative. "It will make it that much easier for them [the EPA] to succeed in trying to protect our air here in Rhode Island.”
High ozone days, or smoggy days, compromise the health of people with lung conditions.
“It will particularly help protect Rhode Islanders from asthma," said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, who applauds the Supreme Court's decision. "And the estimate is that it’s going to be between $260 and $650 million dollars every year in health care savings.”
Rhode Island is one of several states on the East Coast that petitioned the EPA last year to enforce stronger air pollution regulations in the Rust Belt and Appalachian states.