When the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced their new ground level ozone attainment standards earlier this month, newspapers in many parts of the country feared that the new ruling would result in job losses and economic decline in their area. Fortunately, our Upstate media did not have to raise the same concerns.
Because of long-term collaboration amongst local governments, industries and organizations in the Upstate, we should not be subject to the potential negative impacts of the new standards. Instead, Upstate residents can be pleased to know that local ozone levels are at historic lows at a time when economic growth is robust.
Based on monitoring results through the 2014 ozone season, the Upstate region would be in compliance with the new standards. The highest testing monitor in the region had a level of 66 parts per billion (ppb) with the standards moving from 75 to 70 ppb.
Those results are quite a contrast from the ground level ozone recorded just 15 years ago when the Upstate first was threatened with non-attainment designation.
The ozone levels in the Upstate have declined from 95 ppb in 2000 to 83 ppb in 2006 and 73 ppb in 2011 to the current levels. Though the final 2015 monitor numbers are not yet available, the region had only one Ozone Alert Day during a hot summer.
This is good news for many reasons.
First and foremost, it means that Upstate residents are breathing cleaner air, which is a primary objectives of the Clean Air Act.
According to the American Lung Association (ALA), there are roughly 25,000 cases of Pediatric Asthma and 80,000 cases of Adult Asthma in the Upstate. Reductions in ozone and other air pollutants will hopefully have a positive impact on the health of Upstate residents who are at risk from dirty air.
Because industries within communities that do not meet EPA air quality standards are subject to greater regulation (usually at significant expense), an unintended consequence for non-attainment areas is often a reduction in jobs and economic growth. Birmingham, Alabama is just one example of a community whose manufacturing economy was significantly impacted by being designated in non-attainment.
Here is the Upstate, we are showing that you can have economic growth and clean air at the same time. Since 2010, the Upstate region has added more than $10 billion in new capital investment.
According to John Lummus, CEO of the Upstate SC Alliance, “The Upstate has proven that you can have a strong manufacturing culture while also supporting clean air and a healthy environment. Companies like BMW, GE, Michelin and many more have actively worked to reduce their ozone forming emissions while increasing capacity and bringing additional jobs and capital investments to the Upstate.”
While federal tailpipe standards, the decline of coal fired power plants and other regulations have played a role in the dramatic decline in ozone levels in the Upstate, also deserving credit are the local leaders who have been working together to reduce emission levels for more than a decade, primarily through voluntary initiatives.
Anderson, Greenville and Spartanburg counties first partnered in the EPA Early Action Compact process in 2002 and were soon joined by other Upstate counties along with public, private and non-profit organizations, businesses and industries. This regional effort led to the Upstate remaining within compliance of the standards at that time and set the foundation for the decline in ozone emissions that has continued.
In 2013, the Upstate Air Quality Advisory Committee, which includes representatives from local governments, private businesses and non-profit organizations from across the region, started the Clean Air Upstate awareness and education campaign. The program has included emission reduction efforts and a public awareness campaign of “Clean Air Tips” that anyone can do to reduce emissions.
The combination of local and regional actions illustrates that being pro-active and working collaboratively can create a positive result.
Moving forward, because the danger of non-attainment seems to have subsided it might be tempting to sit back and not continue to aggressively work to further reduce emission levels here in the region.
It is my hope and expectation that the Upstate will not fall into that trap and instead work to make the air in the region even cleaner, ultimately reducing the Asthma rate below the current 7.5%.
Through local and regional efforts we can continue to improve air quality in the Upstate, thus supporting both public health and economic vibrancy.
Check out CleanAirUpstate.org to see how you can help make a difference.
Dean Hybl is Executive Director of Ten at the Top, which coordinates the Upstate Air Quality Advisory Committee.
Upstate, SC [October 14, 2015] – Ten at the Top (TATT) is continuing efforts to showcase the great assets, organizations and initiatives from across the Upstate through the “Upstate Bus Tour… Getting to Know Your Neighbors,” a quarterly tour to communities across the region. The fourth and final stop of 2015 will be to Oconee County on Thursday, November 5th. The bus will leave from the TATT office in Greenville at 8:30 am and return by 4:30 pm and is open to anyone interested in learning more about the Upstate region.
“The Upstate is full of special places that are working to grow their economic vibrancy while also enhancing the quality of life and educational opportunities for their local residents,” said Dean Hybl, Executive Director of Ten at the Top. “There is a lot of positive things happening in Oconee County and we are glad to be able to help showcase those initiatives through the regional bus tour.”
Participants on the bus tour will get to see and learn about all the great things happening in Oconee County, including their successful efforts to enhance economic development, job growth and workforce development. A special tour of the Duke World of Energy and lunch at the beautiful Chattooga Belle Farm will also be part of the program.
This is a unique opportunity to learn about Oconee County in one action-packed, educational, and fun day. The tour is limited to only 33 participants and is filling quickly. The cost for the day is $25, including transportation, program, and lunch. Register today by clicking HERE or contacting Ashley Downing, at 864-283-2317 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Reservation deadline is November 3rd.
Upstate, SC [October 6, 2015] – Ten at the Top (TATT), an organization created to foster collaboration, partnerships and strategic planning across the Upstate, recently conducted the 500th regional engagement (presentations, forums, meetings, surveys) since the organization began its current phase in January 2010. The activities have included more than 25,500 participants from across the Upstate region.
Ranging from issue-based task force meetings to presentations for community organizations or gatherings of hundreds of elected officials, community & business leaders and Upstate residents discussing key issues around the economic vitality or quality of life in the Upstate, each session has helped grow the spirit of collaboration and partnerships across the Upstate region.
“TATT was created to serve as a regional connector and ‘safe place’ where stakeholders can discuss key cross-jurisdictional issues and how we can work collaboratively to make the Upstate stronger,” said Executive Director, Dean Hybl. “What a great milestone,” said TATT Founding Chairman, Irv Welling. “Regionalism is clearly gaining ground in the Upstate! We need to keep pulling our Upstate together to capitalize on our momentum and relevance!”
The issues on which TATT has convened reginal meetings and encouraged collaboration focus around the five driver areas of the Our Upstate Vision (Which TATT developed through feedback from more than 10,000 Upstate residents). The specific topics on which TATT has convened meetings and forums include child well-being, supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses, senior issues, air quality attainment, food system planning, transportation and infrastructure, workforce and skill development and local community vibrancy.
“Ten at the Top is bringing together and engaging leaders from all over the ten Upstate counties with a milestone of 500 regional engagement sessions,” said current TATT Chairperson, Carol Burdette. “Through these gatherings we are becoming a stronger region because our leaders are talking about and exploring solutions to problems facing the Upstate today and in the future.”
There are currently more than 600 people participating on TATT committees and task forces. Check out www.tenatthetop.org to learn more about current activities and how to become engaged.
Upstate, SC [October 1, 2015] – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced new 8-hour National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone. The public health based standards call for a strengthening of the attainment level from 75 parts per billion (ppb) to 70 ppb. Based on the most recent monitoring results through the 2014 ozone season, the Upstate region would be in compliance with the new standards as the highest testing monitor in the region had a level of 66 ppb.
“That the Upstate looks to be within attainment of the new ozone standard is obviously great news,” said Dean Hybl, Executive Director of Ten at the Top, which coordinates the Upstate Air Quality Advisory Committee. “Considering that the Upstate monitors had levels above 80 ppb a decade ago and were at 73 ppb in 2011, it shows that the voluntary local efforts by many governments, organizations and businesses from across the region have been working.
“Having clean air that meets the EPA standards is crucial for the health of all Upstate residents and is also important because it means that manufacturers and needed transportation projects in the region will not be subject to additional regulations and costs.”
According to Hybl, the history of collaboration amongst communities and businesses in the Upstate deserves a great deal of the credit for the dramatic improvement the Upstate region has made in air quality over the last 15 years. The ozone levels in the Upstate have declined from 95 ppb in 2000 to 83 ppb in 2006 and 73 ppb in 2011 to the current levels. Though the final 2015 monitor numbers will not be available for several weeks, the region had only one Ozone Alert Day during a hot summer.
Anderson, Greenville and Spartanburg counties first came together to start the EPA Early Action Compact (EAC) process in 2002 and were soon joined by other Upstate counties along with public, private and non-profit organizations, businesses and industries. This regional effort led to the Upstate remaining within compliance of the standards at that time and set the foundation for the continued decline in ozone emissions that has continued.
“This is a perfect example of an issue that needed to be addressed both through local actions and regional partnerships,” Hybl said. “The cumulative impact of communities and businesses working to ensure cleaner air has a positive impact on all Upstate residents.”