Bluer Skies Mean Greener Pastures for Business
October 31, 2012
Over the course of a recent two-day workshop, I heard both the N.C. Department of Commerce and the N.C. Division of Air Quality reinforce the connection between good air quality and business growth. Luckily, the Research Triangle Region’s air quality meets current EPA standards, but that could change with upcoming announcement of new, tighter standards for two of our main air pollutants, fine particle pollution and ground-level ozone, neither of which can be seen with the naked eye.
So what can those of us in the region do to keep improving our air quality? North Carolina utilities worked hard from 2003-2010, spending $2.9 billion installing emissions reductions equipment at their facilities in response to the state’s 2002 Clean Smoke Stacks Act, [i], and it worked! The investment made by the utilities sector is the primary reason our region was able to meet EPA standards, making it more attractive to new investors.
Our state Division of Air Quality helps safe-guard our status with a permitting system that requires new, major sources of air pollution or existing sources making major modifications or expansions to develop plans that help businesses achieve the lowest possible emission rate using the best available control technology. I know what you’re thinking, and, no, the permits are not free, but the cost of fines that are levied for failure to stay within state regulations can cost far more.
The burden of keeping our air clean doesn’t fall solely on the shoulders of industry—it’s on us, too. Did you know that cars and trucks—our private vehicles—are the number one source of ground-level ozone pollution in North Carolina? One of the easiest things we can do to reduce emissions from our cars is to avoid drive-thrus at places like restaurants, banks, and pharmacies. By parking and going inside, you obviously drop your emissions to zero. But let’s get real: if the weather’s like it’s been lately, and there’s no way you’re getting out in it if you have another, drier option, you can cut your engine while sitting in line. You’ll save money, instead of burning fuel while going nowhere, and you’ll reduce the wear-and-tear on your engine that results from idling. And let’s not forget the carpool line at school, where the people closest to ground-level, our children, are inhaling pollution that is harmful to their lungs.
Maintaining bluer skies in the Research Triangle Region requires ongoing effort from all, but it’s that effort that will create the greener pastures businesses seek.
[i] Steve Schliesser, Environmental Engineer, NC DENR Division of Air Quality