Clean Air Project May Be Repeated In Other Cities

By JOE MILICIA, Associated Press Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) - A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency pilot project that sought to improve air quality in two blue-collar neighborhoods may be repeated in other cities across the country.

The goal of the Cleveland Air Toxics Pilot Project was to improve air quality in a short period of time without spending a long period of time studying the problem.

The EPA spent $750,000 beginning in March 2001 to initiate a number of small projects that would improve air quality within a year.

More than a third of the money went toward cutting emissions from school buses, including replacing older buses with ones that operate on low-sulfur diesel, retrofitting buses and starting a campaign to reduce idling time at bus yards.

Cleveland was selected because it has a mix of industry, is centrally located and has typical toxic air levels for a mid-sized city, the EPA said.

The EPA did not do any air test studies to measure whether there was any improvement in air quality in the two test neighborhoods -- Slavic Village and St. Clair-Superior.

But Thomas Skinner, administrator of the EPA's Region 5, said authorities believe the project was successful enough that it may be repeated in cities such as Chicago and Minneapolis.

"You can take a number of small activities and they add up to real environmental improvement," he said. "They seem small at the time but they do add up."

Cleveland is now entering a second phase of the project called the Cleveland Clean Air Century Campaign.

Led by the American Lung Association, the project will seek voluntary cooperation from businesses and residents to improve air quality.

"If it's as successful as we think it's going to be, it will be replicated in other cities," Sen. George Voinovich said. "It's relatively cheap."

Voinovich said he likes the project because participation is voluntary.

One of the participants in the project is the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, which will spend $66 million for 225 buses that operate on higher priced diesel fuel, which emits lower levels of sulfur. Half of the buses will be on the road by December.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)