A breath of fresh air

I found out an answer to questions I had the other day concerning my area’s air quality. I mentioned how it was curious that Beaumont, Texas, seemed to have a bit better air quality than the national average, according to Money magazine’s calculations. And I also said how the air did seem to be much better now than when I first moved here more than 25 years ago.

It turns out the air quality has improved here. I e-mailed my question to Neil Carman, a former Texas air quality inspector who now heads the air program for the state’s Sierra Club chapter based in Austin. I’ve talked with Neil a number of times for stories that I wrote and found he really knows his air.

“Yes, overall there has been lots of improvement in the (Beaumont-Port Arthur) region’s air quality from the 80s to 90s to 2005,” said Neil “But there are still local hotspots around certain plants in Port Arthur, Port Neches, Beaumont, etc., where problems have continued, although it’s probably nothing like it used to be in the 70s-80s and early 90s.”

He said the improvements show that state and federal air pollution regulations do work over time. That is even though some deadlines have been blown on reducing pollutants in the area.

“No, it’s not the weather. Cleaner air is for real!” Neil said.

I do remember when the air was quite stinky in the area and that has surely improved. Now if only something could be done that would keep at bay the occasional stink from the paper mill about 20 miles northeast of here we’d be in bidness.

Lest the petrochemical industry, the government and ourselves all slap each other on the butts and give each other high fives for the improvement we all can do much better.

It has been somewhat alarming in recent years to hear calls for scrapping a lot of environmental protections because of what is perceived as “junk science.” Some of these same people questioning the science also do not believe global warming is taking place. President Bush does believe global warming is happening although he doesn’t seem too concerned about it. But whether you believe in global warming or you do not, you don’t want crappy air. Unless you are some kind of nut job you wouldn’t want to live in a house that is full of a thick, toxic, stinking cloud. So why would you settle for that outdoors?

We each have a hand in the destiny of our environment as well. I know it’s hard to remember some of the things you can do. But if you just do something to help reduce the Earth’s pollution that’s better than nothing. Okay, I’m boring my soapbox to splinters and the neighborhood woodpecker has fallen asleep, so I will just leave it at that. Well, no I won’t. Okay. Now I will.

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