April 12, 2004
E.P.A. EXPECTED TO DESIGNATE CHARLOTTE-MECKLENBURG REGION IN NON-ATTAINMENT FOR OZONE
Charlotte, NC - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) is expected to announce on April 15, 2004, that more than 200 counties nationwide, including the Charlotte-Mecklenburg region, are in non-attainment for ozone for the new, more stringent eight-hour standard. Other N.C. regions expected to be on the non-attainment list include the Raleigh and Greensboro areas.
Non-attainment indicates the region has unhealthy air. Under the federal Clean Air Act, the E.P.A. has established national ambient air quality standards to protect public health. The E.P.A. designates a region in non-attainment after a series of violations of these standards averaged over a three-year period.
Once the designation is made by the E.P.A., non-attainment will take effect in May 2004. The state of North Carolina will have until 2007 to develop a “State Implementation Plan” to show how these areas will reduce pollution to achieve attainment. North Carolina, Charlotte and Mecklenburg County will begin implementing the plan and will have until 2010 to get back into attainment. To reduce the amount of pollution, the State Implementation Plan would likely target regional pollution sources such as power plants, and mobile sources such as automobiles, construction equipment, boats, etc.
The City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County have taken a number of steps in recent years to reduce ozone and put the region on the road to cleaner air. These steps include plans for expanded mass transit, commuter choice programs, more aggressive enforcement of smoking vehicle laws, and the establishment of SEQL - Sustainable Environment for Quality of Life - a regional consensus-building effort focused on air, water and smart growth issues. SEQL is convened and staffed by the Centralina Council of Governments.
While air quality has improved, compliance ozone levels remain 15 percent above the new standard. In the Charlotte-Mecklenburg region, most ozone forming pollution comes from the use of cars, trucks, construction equipment, lawn equipment and large power plants. In the future, cars, trucks and smokestacks are expected and required to get cleaner. However, contributions from individuals and non-traditional air pollution sources will be needed to meet the standard.
A non-attainment designation carries several potential economic consequences for Charlotte-Mecklenburg:
· Restrictions on highway improvements and loss of federal transportation dollars.
· Federal monetary sanctions for not submitting an approvable ozone attainment plan, not submitting the plan in a timely manner or not meeting national ambient air quality standards.
· Slow economic expansion for existing business.
· A stigma of dirty air, leading to slower economic growth due to fewer new companies locating in the region.
· Federal implementation of an ozone attainment plan.
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