Legislation will give Lynch more power

John O'Brien Jun. 22, 2007, 2:39pm


PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch has come out the clear winner of his battle with an airport after legislation was passed late Thursday targeted at improving air quality there.

TF Green Airport in Warwick will now be subject to "An Act Relating to Aeronautics -- Air Quality Monitoring Act," which has now passed through both the state's House of Representatives and Senate.

Lynch says it clarifies and strengthens existing air quality laws and establishes a protocol that includes a requirement to monitor black carbon and ultrafine particulate matter, while also establishing data reporting requirements and penalties for non-compliance. Lynch will be in charge of seeking action in those cases.

"We can now mark the passage of a well-crafted and well-defined bill that more fully protects the people of the City of Warwick and, most especially, those living close to the airport," Lynch said. "Upon enactment, this new law will require the airport to test for pollutants with the greatest potential to harm public health and spell out the consequences for any failure to comply with it."

The Rhode Island Airport Corp. recently installed temporary air quality monitors at the airport after being told to do so by Lynch. Plans for a permanent system say a monitoring shed will be installed by Sept. 8.

Studies of the air quality at the airport have shown the presence of several toxins. However, a study funded by the Environmental Protection Agency showed in 2006 that the levels of pollutants there were no worse than in the state's suburban areas.

However, a report in the Providence Journal said the study showed there were spikes of black carbon downwind from the airport.

Lynch asked the RIAC in February why it had not done this earlier, and the corporation replied that state law is too vague on the matter.

State law now provides that the RIAC will give the Department of Health $200,000 in funding to conduct a health study concerning air quality monitoring.

Lynch will also be able to bring action by obtaining restraining orders and injunctive relief for non-compliance with the law.

"Unfortunately, it had become all too apparent that we had to eliminate excuses for future non-compliance by ensuring accountability, enforceability, and oversight of this much needed system," Lynch said.

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