by Dr. Roy Cordato
Senior Economist, Emeritas
The 2014 ozone (smog) season has come and gone. It started on April 1 and ended on October 31. The results for the season are in. There was not a single monitor location, out of 44 across the state, where the EPA standard of 75 parts per billion of ambient air was exceeded. As far as I can tell, this is first time on record that the state has gone an entire season without any code orange or above smog days. In 2013, North Carolina had 1 high ozone day, and prior to that, in 2012 and 2011, it had 111 and 99 respectively.
Since 2010, (Also see here.) I have been keeping track of air quality in our neighboring states as well, specifically ozone and particulate matter, to get a sense of whether or not the Clean Smokestacks Bill (CSB), passed by the NC legislature in 2002 and costing several billion dollars for compliance, has been making any real difference to air quality in the state relative to surrounding states that never implemented such a bill. It appears that the answer continues to be no.
The results for 2014 in South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, and Tennessee are not remarkably different from those in North Carolina. Like North Carolina, South Carolina had no high ozone monitor readings this year, and Tennessee had only 2. Virginia registered 4 high ozone readings this year, but all of them were in suburban Washington, DC, counties, where ozone problems are related to extremely high traffic volume and not power plant smokestacks. Outside of the immediate DC area, the number, as in North Carolina, was zero. Georgia had 9 high ozone readings, but, like in Virginia, 8 of them were in Atlanta. Outside of Atlanta there was 1. The point is that, except for the major metropolitan areas of Washington, DC, and Atlanta, which have always been areas with relatively worse smog problems than anywhere else in the region, our neighboring states had very similar results to North Carolina without ever adopting or burdening their utility customers with the costs of a CSB.
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