Regulators: Tighten NC metro air quality rules

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

RALEIGH (AP) ó Although air quality has improved in much of North Carolina, regulators say unhealthy ozone levels may result in tighter federal regulations for metropolitan areas.
Regulators said millions of people inhale unhealthy levels of ozone, which is a primary ingredient of smog, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported Tuesday.
“Air quality in North Carolina definitively is getting better over time,” said George Bridgers, chief air quality meteorologist with the Division of Air Quality. “But the federal standard is getting tighter.”
State air quality officials plan to recommend that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency adopt tougher rules in March for cities, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and several other areas.
Regulators are required to review the standards every five years.
The current standard is 75 parts per billion in a sample taken at ground level over an eight-hour period.
Counties that don’t meet the new standards will be designated by March 2010. Counties with ozone problems must develop plans to improve air quality, including reducing tailpipe emissions and new controls on smokestack emissions.
The number of counties that don’t meet the standard shows that the state needs to do more to improve air quality, said attorney David Farren of the Southern Environmental Law Center.
“We’ve got an ongoing air-quality challenge for the entire Piedmont crescent,” Farren said. “It’s the area growing more rapidly. The challenge will continue with that continued growth and the tightening standards.”
Public meetings on the new standards began last week and continue until Jan. 20. The state Division of Air Quality said are likely to be included in the stricter standards included the Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, High Point, Fayetteville, Hickory, Asheville, Rocky Mount and Greenville areas.
óóóOn the Net:
N.C. Division of Air Quality: