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Cool summer means fewer ozone alert days

Charlotte has nearly made it through the summer with only two orange ozone alert days. That beats last year when there was a total of seventeen ozone action days. But those numbers say more about the weather than the cleanliness of the air. WFAE's Lisa Miller has more: Ozone is a secondary pollutant because cars and power plants don't emit ozone; they emit nitrogen oxides. Add sun and heat and you've got the code orange, red, and purple days that have plagued the region in past years. Charlotte has only had two days this year where the amount of ozone was deemed unhealthy for people who have asthma or other respiratory illnesses. That's a far cry from last year. Alan Giles with Mecklenburg County Air Quality says Charlotte had a few things working in its favor this summer. "The Clean Smokestacks Act which was passed by the state of North Carolina is really kicking in now and helping to improve our air quality," says Giles. "But we are having one of the coolest, wettest summers on record and that plays a big part when that comes to ozone production." Under the Clean Smokestacks Act of 2002, North Carolina lawmakers gave utilities until this year to reduce ozone-forming pollutants from coal-fired power plants by 77 percent. Charlotte is working under a deadline. Ozone levels must remain low for three years in a row. If this summer pans out well, Charlotte has another two years to prove itself. The immediate impact of not meeting the deadline would mean restrictions on new industry. But it could also make it harder for the region to secure hundreds of millions of federal dollars for building roads.