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Chicago Set to Fail Obama Administration’s Clean Air Rules

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January 29, 2010

CHICAGO - Environmental advocacy groups say Chicago stands to become the only large city in the United States that will fail to meet new limits for air pollution, proposed Monday by the Obama administration. The limits are intended to help people suffering from asthma and other respiratory illnesses, a chronic problem in Chicago.

Between 2006 and 2008, Chicago was well above the limit for smog-causing nitrogen oxides, but an EPA air bureau chief attributes at least part of that overage to the location of the city's air monitor - atop a building in the Loop, near two major expressways, downtown traffic and two coal-fired power plants. Still, state officials, as well as groups including Environment Illinois, argue the only way to reach the proposed limits is to increase the number of efficient cars and trucks on the road.

The group's staff attorney, Brian Granahan, says Illinoisans would have to change the way they drive.

"We need to start moving quickly toward relying on our electricity grid for fuel as opposed to relying on gasoline and the internal combustion engine, which is much-less efficient than even our dirtiest power plant."

The air quality in Chicago must be improved, says Granahan, because the current levels are affecting the population's health.

"This means bad things for Chicagoland residents. Certain respiratory health illnesses are much worse than a lot of other places in the country. There's a direct correlation between the fact that we can't meet these standards and the fact that you see such big respiratory health illness rates here."

Granahan suggests that the government increase the use of greener cars by putting a price on global warming pollution. He suggests a cap-and-trade law that would give people an incentive for choosing more-efficient vehicles. Some health and environmental groups had urged the Environmental Protection Agency to set the pollution limits even lower, based on recent information about the health risks of breathing nitrous pollution. The lower limit would also have put most other large metropolitan areas in the same situation as Chicago. States will have until 2021 to comply with the new rules.

Aricka Flowers, Public News Service - IL