Greenville, SC– During a community presentation held at A.J. Whittenberg Elementary School, the Duke Energy Foundation presented the Upstate Air Quality Advisory Committee, which is coordinated by Ten at the Top, with a $75,000 grant to support the Clean Air Upstate outreach, education and action strategy in the region.
The grant will be split into two components with a portion used to expand current no-idling programs in the region and the remainder used to develop a public outreach and education initiative. Specifics on each program are highlighted below.
South Carolina’s Upstate currently meets EPA’s minimum ozone attainment levels, but EPA is expected to announce tighter standards later this year (for implementation in 2014) that could potentially put most of the Upstate, as well as Columbia and Charleston, out of attainment and result in tighter regulations on industries looking to locate or grow in the Upstate while also limiting how highway funds are spent and potentially requiring vehicle inspections and other emission reducing measures.
The voluntary actions identified by the Upstate Air Quality Advisory Committee in the Clean Air Upstate program serve as a proactive regional approach to try and reduce emission levels before the region is potentially impacted by additional EPA regulations.
“Ensuring our air quality levels meet EPA standards is both a public health and an economic development issue,” said Ten at the Top Executive Director Dean Hybl. “This grant from Duke Energy has allowed us to jump start the education and action programs developed by the Upstate Air Quality Advisory Committee and also to leverage that funding with support from other organizations to maximize the impact of the program.”
CLEAN AIR UPSTATE PROGRAM COMPONENTS: Breath Better No Idling Program: The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) currently coordinates the Breathe Better (B2) No Idling Program in approximately 50 schools across South Carolina. There are currently 14 schools in the Upstate participating in the program. The goal of the Clean Air Upstate initiative is to increase the number of Upstate schools participating to 40 by the end of 2014. The Duke Energy funding will allow for the expansion of the Clean Air Upstate B2 Grant Program, which was started earlier this year in Greenville County through a $10,000 funding grant from the Hollingsworth Funds to the rest of the Upstate. Any school in the Upstate that is currently participating or successfully starts the Breathe Better program will receive a one-time $400 unrestricted funding grant and be eligible to compete for one of five $1,000 sustainability grants that will be awarded across the region during the 2013-2014 school year.
According to DHEC, the 38 schools across South Carolina that participated in the program and provided B2 statistics for 2011- 2012 school year accounted for a combined reduction of 991 tons of CO2 and 121,659 pounds of CO while saving 6,120 gallons of diesel fuel and 95,193 gallons of gasoline. Idling time eliminated through the program totaled 12,240 hours of school bus time and 190,620 hours for personal vehicles. If Clean Air Upstate is able to grow the program to 40 or more schools within this region, it would have a significant impact in reducing emission levels.
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No Idling Parking Lot Program: Expanding on the Breathe Better program, which focuses on schools, Clean Air Upstate is creating the No Idling Parking Lot Program and is encouraging parking lot owners to designate their parking lots as “no idling zones.” Greenville Developer Phil Hughes and Hughes Investments has committed to placing the “no idling zone” signs in his parking lots around downtown Greenville. Hughes Investments will place a total of 12 signs at their parking locations with the signs expected to be placed by mid-June. This is a voluntary program with no specific enforcement, but it is hoped that the signs and awareness of the value of turning off car ignitions when parked (both to the environment and in cost savings for the driver) will encourage people to adhere to the message.
It is hoped that other developers and companies that control parking lots across the Upstate will choose to make their lots “no idling zones” by participating in this program.
Clean Air Upstate Chart and Tips: In partnership with SC DHEC, The Upstate Air Quality Advisory Committee has developed an Upstate Air Alert Chart that outlines the various stages of air quality alerts and the potential physical impacts at each level. It also includes actions that can be done on Air Alert Days to reduce emissions. The committee has also developed a set of “Clean Air Tips” that will be highlighted during the upcoming public outreach/education campaign. These tips identify 11 things that all Upstate residents can do to help reduce ozone emissions.
Regional Clean Air Pledge: To date, four counties (Anderson, Greenville, Oconee and Spartanburg) along with more than a dozen businesses and organizations have approved the Clean Air Upstate Pledge. The pledge is part of the Upstate’s participation in the EPA Ozone Advance Program and illustrates a commitment by communities and organizations across the region to implement actions that can reduce emission levels. The pledge and a full list of organizations that have approved the pledge are available at www.cleanairupstate.org.
Clean Air Upstate Outreach and Education Campaign: A portion of the Duke Energy funding is being used to start a public outreach and education campaign around air quality. WSPA-TV has stepped forward to serve as a partner in this effort and is donating more than $35,000 of in-kind support to the effort. Beginning in June, WSPA and CW television stations will run Public Service Announcements featuring their television personalities Jack Roper, Kimberly Kelly and Megan Heidlberg with the messages focusing around the “Clean Air Tips.” The campaign will also feature a presence on the WSPA-TV web site, mobile applications, news programs and weather casts on ozone alert days.
Also serving as a media partner is GSA Business, which is donating print advertising and will be highlighting air quality issues in their publications throughout the summer.
“We hope this combination of focusing on actions and awareness will help grow the impact of the Clean Air Upstate efforts across the region and result in a reduction in emissions,” Hybl said. “While many of the individual actions may not seem significant if done by only one person, if these efforts become common practice for all 1.36 million people in the Upstate the impact would be tremendous.”
In addition to these components of the Clean Air Upstate initiative, the Upstate Air Quality Advisory Committee will continue to identify additional opportunities to reduce ozone emissions in the region. For more details or to become involved, please check out the Clean Air Upstate web site (www.cleanairupstate.org.)