We Knew This About Pollution

I can see smokestacks from the chair I’m sitting in. They mostly belong to an older coal-fired power plant that rarely operates these days. However, as ProPublica recently published, there are several smaller facilities near me pumping Benzene and other chemicals into the air.

I think we all know that corporations like the ones in ProPublica’s article are polluting. But, I also think most Americans believe that those corporations are operating within some mandated set of guidelines. That is true, most of these businesses are operating exactly in line with the regulations that the government as set for businesses of this type. However, those guidelines are woefully inadequate.

ProPublica has taken a crucial step here and looked at each of these facilities not as individual entities but in the aggregate. That has allowed them to assess the pollution danger of an entire community based on the multitude of harmful polluters. So, even if one of these corporations is working right up to the limit, when there are 3 or 4 or 7 in a community, that combined effect is orders of magnitude worse for the people who live in that community.

Meanwhile, you and I recycle the glass bottle we drank out of and think that we somehow made a difference in our environment. These corporations, and the many other sectors of industry that play the same game, need to be held into account by a regulatory system that aims not to strike a balance between commerce and health but which elevates the health of a community above that of a corporation.