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Report: St. Petersburg tops 21 Florida cities with worst air pollution in 2015

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The Sunshine State’s air is dirtier than it should be, according to an environment report issued Thursday.

The study, called Our Health at Risk, reviewed EPA records of air pollution levels across the country, focusing on smog and soot — dangerous pollutants that come from burning dirty fuels like coal, oil and natural gas.

Among its key findings:

— People in the Tampa Bay area experienced 56 days with elevated smog pollution and 86 days with elevated soot pollution in 2015.

— St. Petersburg ranked 1st in the state for worst smog pollution in 2015, and 1st for soot.

Across Florida, 21 cities and metro areas had unhealthy levels of air pollution with an average of 17 dirty air days during 2015, including Miami, Tallahassee, and Gainesville.

The report comes as the Trump Administration is planning major cuts to environmental programs promulgated by the Obama administration, including a request to the EPA to rewrite the Clean Power Plan; a request to the Department of Interior to rewrite air pollution regulations for oil and gas drilling; a proposal to cut the EPA’s budget by 31 percent, and instructions to the TPA to roll back federal clean car standards.

“We can’t afford to roll back these key environmental protections,” said Congressman Charlie Crist. “More pollution and more climate change are direct threats to our community’s health, safety, energy independence, and economy.”

The report was written by Elizabeth Ridlington from the Frontier Group and Travis Madsen from the Environment America Research & Policy Center, and published by Environment Florida.

“There’s no safe level of exposure to smog and particulate pollution,” said Ridlington. “Elevated levels of air pollution — even levels the federal government says are safe for most people — hurt our health.”

“In the face of reckless and dangerous actions from the Trump Administration on clean air, Senators Nelson and Rubio must stand up for our health,” said Turner Lott with Environment Florida. “We urge our senators to defend clean air safeguards and clean car standards so that dirty air days can become a thing of the past.”

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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