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On Climate Tour, Inslee Notes Health Impacts Of Carbon Emissions In Seattle's South Park

Ted S. Warren
AP Photo
Gov. Jay Inslee, center, stands on a bike and pedestrian path that borders state highway 99 in Seattle's South Park neighborhood.

Seattle’s South Park neighborhood got a visit Monday from Gov. Jay Inslee. 

The governor was highlighting the disproportionate health impacts of air pollution there as part of his statewide climate tour. It’s one more argument in favor of his plan to cap carbon emissions.

Over the past year, Inslee has visited everything from shellfish farms hurt by ocean acidification to water treatment facilities being rebuilt because of the expected rise in sea levels. 

In South Park, he toured a neighborhood plagued by traffic. Community activists showed the governor a skate park, playground and basketball court that are all right next to Highway 99.

Resident Paulina Lopez told him they fought to get these new facilities built for their kids, but now they’re worried.

“Is it safe to come and play next to the cars on the highway? We have higher, you know, percentages of — very high compared to other neighborhoods — of asthma,” Lopez said.

Asthma rates are two to three times higher, Lopez said, and several scientists repeated the concern at a roundtable afterward.

Inslee said he often hears that lower-income areas are more exposed to toxicity than higher-income ones.

“I think that’s a perfect example of this. You’ve got a nice court, but it’s right next to the highway and it’s exposing kids to the fumes,” he said.

Inslee said he wants to put new caps on carbon emissions that will make polluters pay and help protect children.

Lopez said she hopes that translates into real improvements on the ground.   

“Yeah, like more trees or like walls that they have in other neighborhoods with more money that, you know, they [build to] protect themselves from pollution of highways,” she said.

Inslee said he’s putting together a plan to introduce to the legislature next year that could raise about $1 billion annually in new revenue from carbon taxes. How that helps communities like South Park remains to be seen.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to