Providence Air Pollution Among Worst in New England

By ecoRI News staff

PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island's capital is one of the most polluted cities in New England, according to a new report on air pollution.

The 60-page report by the Frontier Group and Environment Rhode Island looked at smog and soot created by fossil-fuel power plants and the industrial sector in 2015.

Providence has the most smog in the state, and ranks 53rd in the nation for soot. The main contributors are its industrial waterfront, a natural-gas power plant near downtown and Interstate 95, which cuts through the center of the city.

By comparison, Providence had 48 smog days in 2015; Boston had 41 and Worcester had 33. Providence also had 112 days of high-particulate matter, while Boston had 92 and Worcester had 41.

The report included Warwick within its Providence study area. Thus, T.F. Green Airport is considered a source of pollution.

According to the recent report, local air pollution will likely worsen as temperatures increase due to climate change. Higher temperatures speed up the creation of ozone and smog. Ground-level ozone and airborne particles are the main triggers of air pollution.

Environment Rhode Island also warns that pollution days may increase as environmental safeguards are eliminated by the Trump administration. President Trump has instructed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to rewrite the Clean Power Plan and review two regulations in the Clean Air Act.

Trump also wants to cut the EPA’s budget by 31 percent and cancel vehicle-emission standards set by President Obama.

Environment Rhode Island calls the deregulation “a get-out-of-jail-free card for polluters.”

According to the Frontier Group, which has an office in Boston, particulate matter can trigger heart attacks, strokes and congestive heart failure. Particulate matter is also linked to autism, premature birth and asthma.

Environment Rhode Island is urging politicians to protect the Clean Air Act, speed up the transition to renewable energy, and improve the high-polluting transportation sector.

The advocacy group wants Gov. Gina Raimondo to double the climate-emission reductions established by the multi-state cap-and-trade program, known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

From 2009 to 2014, the nine-state pact reduced power-plant emissions and avoided an estimated 830 premature deaths, 390 non-fatal heart attacks and 47,000 lost work days from Virginia to Maine, according to the report.

“Even one day with unhealthy air is too many,” said Morgan Folger, climate campaign organizer with Environment Rhode Island. “Burning dirty fuels like coal, oil and gas threatens our health. It’s time to shift to 100 percent clean, renewable energy.”