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Platform: Parents want tighter controls on pollution

By Leslie Kuhl

I would like to applaud Ken Blackwell’s plan to modernize the health insurance available to Ohio citizens and ensure that no citizen of Ohio is without health insurance. The idea of working toward a healthier Ohio, without raising state income taxes, interests me greatly. Blackwell is my choice for governor as a result of this issue and his solid, conservative values. But where health care is concerned, I also believe clean air must be considered.

Neither Democrat Ted Strickland nor Republican Blackwell seem to notice that the health of Ohio’s citizens really cannot improve if large industrial polluters are systematically granted their wishes under the guise of making regulation more efficient. Paid lobbyists sent by industry pester our representatives to the point of distraction to achieve goals that may diverge greatly from what is in the best interest of Ohio’s citizens. This time-consuming and costly behind-the-scenes jockeying doesn’t sound like efficient regulation to me.

Ohio’s economy is an issue of paramount importance in this election. But I wonder if granting the Ohio industries an environmental cookie cutter to carve out their legislative agenda really creates good jobs in Ohio? This is a common false dilemma: that business and environmental protection are wholly incompatible and a governor must grant one side’s agenda or the other.

For a long time citizens of our area have simply accepted as a necessary evil a “trample the weak and step over the dead” approach to pollution. Marietta residents hope that both candidates for governor will decide to champion the issue of clean air. We expect Ohio’s next governor to find a way to provide business interests with positive assistance without sacrificing our children’s safety.

Several statesmen from Columbus have tried to suggest that we’re all equally concerned about the health of the public, particularly children. Another permutation of this notion arose back in March and went something like this: We all breathe the same air and, therefore, we all have the same concern for its quality. That idea is absurd. Are these men’s children really similarly situated with children here? I don’t think so.

My children are under age 6 — in the midst of their neurological developmental years. Are theirs? Do their children live within a five-mile radius of one of the largest emitters of toxic air pollutants in the entire country, as mine do? When was the last time either of these men took their 2-year-old child to have blood drawn to determine his manganese level? When was the last time these gentlemen drove their toddler to a neurotoxicologist three hours away to be examined for an alert level manganese exposure? My family has had to do both in the past year.

In the years that Strickland has represented our district, though he may have tried, he was unable to correct the air pollution problem here. If a candidate really wants voters in Washington County, a district with rampant air pollution, to consider voting for him, then he must address valid environmental concerns seriously. If Ohio’s next governor seeks to help Ohio citizens live healthier lives, it will not be done by catering to major industrial air polluters.

Parents in Southeast Ohio are asking Ohio’s next governor to enforce tighter controls on industrial air pollution. Like those vulnerable souls lost and made ill in the 1948 Donora, Pa., air pollution crisis, citizens of the Mid-Ohio Valley are acutely aware that we are put in danger if industrial polluters have too much influence over our legislators. Ohio may freely favor industrial businesses with tax cuts, tax credits or other perks. But this state must not allow Ohio families’ health and safety to be threatened by actively permitting excessive air pollution. Pollution-driven illnesses drive up health care costs for all Ohio citizens.

It is a fact that toxic manganese, chromium and lead dust is sent into the air of Marietta schoolchildren daily. Air monitoring conducted by the Ohio EPA revealed manganese levels in our local air 10 to 25 times higher than recommended. Parents here have no idea what their children’s toxic exposure is unless they get tests by making costly trips to doctors and phlebotomists.

I hope that as they examine ways to lower the cost of health insurance, both candidates to become Ohio’s next governor will examine the Ohio EPA’s Title V permitting process for hazardous air pollution. The goal should not be merely to make it more efficient, but to decrease permitted limits to safer, more reasonable levels. If Ohio’s new governor reduces toxic industrial air emissions today, he will significantly reduce the need for medical treatment and the likelihood of Ohio residents contracting illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease and cancer that are costly and painful to treat.

I also support Ken Blackwell’s candidacy because he is pro-Life. Yet, the issue of caring for children also requires we protect those same babies once they’re born. Policies that permit industrial businesses to send tons of dangerous toxins into our children’s air are wrong for today’s Ohio. Parents want our next governor to make the environmental landscape of Ohio safer for our children.

I hope it is not too late for both candidates for governor to carefully consider the issue of clean air. Nobody wants poor air quality, but some of us live a whole lot closer to it than others. Why? Because we have been unable to convince an Ohio governor to do anything about it.

Leslie Kuhl is a registered Republican in Marietta, Ohio.




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