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Regionalism Chokes

City and surrounding counties get low marks for air quality.

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Think Richmond lacks for regional cooperation? The American Lung Association doesn't — the nonprofit's awarded the city, along with its three closest county neighbors, a shared failing grade for air quality in its State of the Air report issued this week.

“For the area right around Richmond — Hanover, Chesterfield and Henrico all got failing grades for ozone pollution,” says David DiBiasi, the American Lung Association in Virginia's director of advocacy.

The F grades are a major drop from last year when the three surrounding counties did C work.

The city, center of heavy industry and of commercial and commuter traffic in the region, long has been a low achiever in the annual ranking. But DiBiasi says the addition of the three counties is due to more stringent Environmental Protection Agency reporting guidelines.

He says the federal agency tightened the safe levels for ozone, “so if you had 80 parts per million last year that might have given you a C,” he says. “It's in the face of scientific evidence presented to the EPA on the health effects of ozone.”

In other words, there was a misdiagnosis, he says, and things are worse than the agency thought.

Even though laws and regulations on emissions have meant cleaner air now than 40 years ago, DiBiasi says, “what we're learning is, it's still not clean enough. Science has shown that the air is worse for us than we thought.”
In addition to its failing grade for ozone, Henrico also dropped to a D for short-term particle pollution in the lung association report.

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