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Charlotte Reaches EPA Ozone Standard, For Now

2014 Mecklenburg County State of the Environment Report

Charlotte’s air quality no longer violates federal standards. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says ozone readings now meet levels consistent with its 2008 rule. However, the improved rating may not last long.

The Charlotte area has lagged behind federal standards for decades. The region did not meet the EPA’s 1997 standard until 2013.

The agency certified Tuesday that Charlotte's air now meets its latest, 2008 standard.

Terry Lansdell, program director of the environmental group Clean Air Carolina, says a number of factors contributed, including a coal plant retirement and creation of the Blue Line light rail.

“Closing of the Riverbend plant was significant to us,” says Lansdell. “The changes in how we design and develop our transportation modes contributed to this, as well as how we view our land use patterns, and that allows people to live and work and use transit without a car.”

With the change, the region’s gas stations can now sell less expensive, higher volatility fuel.

This could all be short-lived, though. The EPA is expected to finalize a new, stricter ozone rule later this year, which Charlotte would, once again, fail to meet.

For now, all North Carolina counties now meet the ozone standard.