April 22, 2007
RALEIGH – North Carolina’s air quality deserves praise, not the scare tactics some environmental groups offer on Earth Day. That’s the key finding in a new John Locke Foundation Spotlight report.
“For many environmental advocates, Earth Day is a special occasion to scare more people into believing air quality is getting worse,” said JLF Legal and Regulatory Policy Analyst Daren Bakst, the report’s author. “Unfortunately, the scare tactics have worked. Too many people think that the air in North Carolina is getting dirtier and harder to breathe. The fact is North Carolina’s air is cleaner than ever and only getting better.”
North Carolina fares well in objective measurements of all six common air pollutants monitored by federal regulators, Bakst said. Those pollutants are: ground-level ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, lead, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. “It is clear that across the board, North Carolina’s air is doing extremely well in relation to all of these pollutants.”
Ozone, the primary source of smog, generates some of the loudest complaints from environmental advocacy groups, Bakst said. Because of those complaints, many people believe ozone levels are getting worse. “Over the last four years, the numbers of days when ozone monitors have detected levels beyond federal standards have been at their lowest levels.”
North Carolina’s carbon monoxide level has been well below the federal standard in every year that data has been available, Bakst said. “There also is a clear and significant downward trend,” he said. “The federal carbon monoxide standard is 9 parts per million. In 1990, North Carolina’s carbon monoxide level was 6.67 parts per million, and in 2005, the number was only 1.82 parts per million. To put it another way, the 2005 levels were 3.7 times less than the 1990 levels. The 2005 levels were five times less than the federal standard.”
The story is also good for sulfur dioxide, a component of acid rain, Bakst said. “North Carolina’s sulfur dioxide levels have been far below the federal standard for the years the data is available,” he said. “In 2005, sulfur dioxide was measured at only 0.0032 parts per million. That’s 9.4 times lower than the federal standard.”
An examination of the other three pollutants produces similar results, Bakst said. “The truth about air quality does not sell newspapers or help raise money for environmental causes—good news usually never does,” he said. “However, the truth does help inform sound public policy.”
Policymakers should examine facts – rather than fears – about North Carolina air quality, Bakst said. “Misconceptions perpetuated by environmental advocates are a serious problem because they influence policymakers when they make decisions that affect all North Carolinians,” he said. “Earth Day 2007 should be a time to celebrate, not a time to cower in fear.”
Daren Bakst’s Spotlight report, “Happy Earth Day: North Carolina’s Air is Worth Celebrating,” is available at the JLF web site. For more information, please contact Bakst at (919) 828-3876 or [email protected]. To arrange an interview, contact Mitch Kokai at (919) 306-8736 or [email protected].