Thursday, July 30, 2015

North Carolina meets all air quality standards for first time since 1997

North Carolina meets all air quality standards for first time since 1997

RALEIGH – The Environmental Protection Agency has officially recognized the Charlotte metropolitan area as complying with the 2008 federal air quality standard for ozone, a milestone capping years of improvements in air quality across North Carolina. North Carolina is now in attainment for all pollutants in all areas across the state.

The EPA published a notice in the Federal Register Tuesday announcing its final action to redesignate Charlotte as a maintenance area for the 8-hour ozone standard, meaning that it now meets the standard but must continue programs aimed at ensuring future compliance. The EPA also announced that it intends to relax the gasoline vapor standard for the Charlotte area, which should save motorists money due to lower fuel costs during the summer months.
“The EPA’s redesignation of the Charlotte region as attaining the 2008 ozone standard is a substantial accomplishment for the state and local governments, resulting from years of steady improvements in air quality,” said Sheila Holman, director of the N.C. Division of Air Quality, or DAQ. “The redesignation and changes to the gasoline standard should save money for businesses and individuals throughout the area.”
The Charlotte metropolitan area was the only region of North Carolina still designated as non-attainment, or non-compliance with the ozone standard. In the early 2000s, about one-third of the state’s counties were classified as non-attainment for ozone, and Code Orange and Red ozone warnings were a frequent occurrence during warmer months. The state had no exceedances of the ozone standard in 2014 and only one in 2013, the lowest levels since the state began monitoring the air for ozone in the early 1970s.
This redesignation comes less than two years after Charlotte was redesignated to attainment under the less stringent 1997 standard, and about a year after the EPA eased gasoline standards for the Triad and Triangle areas. The relaxation in fuel standards saved motorists about 7 cents per gallon in gasoline costs, or more than $18 million total, in the summer of 2014. The change in the Charlotte gasoline standard still needs to go through final approval by the EPA.
Air quality has improved across the state over the past decade due to declining emissions from motor vehicles, power plants and other industrial sources, resulting from a series of state and federal measures. The Clean Smokestacks Act, adopted in 2002, required the state’s coal-fired power plants to reduce their emissions by about three-fourths. Other EPA requirements have led to lower emissions from other industrial sources, cars and trucks, as well as cleaner gasoline and diesel fuel. The EPA is expected to adopt a more stringent ozone standard in October.
More information on the ozone redesignation and fuel standard change can be found at this page on the following EPA websites:
More information on the improvements in air quality in North Carolina can be found at the DAQ website,

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