Cincinnati law to police polluting businesses

An aerial view of Cincinnati
New businesses and industry in Cincinnati will be refused permits to operate if they do not meet the environmental criteria
Cincinnati has passed a new law introducing 'environmental justice permits', and will use police powers to force polluting businesses to clean up their acts or get out of town

A new law could see Cincinnati become the first city in the world to use police powers to patrol and prosecute polluting businesses.

The Environmental Justice Ordinance will mean that any 'proposed' industry or business wanting to operate within the city will need an ‘environmental justice permit’.

No permit will be given for industries ‘significantly interfering with public health' by causing an excess risk of cancer risk, acute health effects, an excess risk in the event of an accident or constituting an ‘air pollution nuisance’.

Cincinnati is the US’s eighth worst city for year-round particle pollution, according to the American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2009 report, with those in its most impoverished corners hit hardest.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) describes environmental injustice as ‘the concern that minority and/or low-income populations bear a disproportionate amount of adverse health and environmental effect’.

‘Although this ordinance doesn’t solve all our air-quality problems, it will offer the citizens of Cincinnati an added measure of protection from industrial activities that pose significant health risks-protection that we currently do not enjoy,’ said Cincinnati’s vice-mayor, David Crowley, who spearheaded the four-year campaign to get the ordinance passed.

The city council voted to adopt the legislation by five votes to four, and despite ‘grave’ and ‘aggressive opposition’ from sectors of the business community, said Crowley. Support will still be required in the form of funding in the city’s 2010 budget if the environmental law is to succeed, however.

‘Considering the nation’s current economic state and the city’s $40 million budget shortfall, we feel that the city should have taken a closer look before passing this unfunded mandate,’ said the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, which opposed the law.

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