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Charlotte Area

New smog air standards

The EPA has proposed stricter standards for smog that could mean expensive regulation for local businesses and even put the Charlotte region at risk of losing its federal highway funding. WFAE's Julie Rose explains: Transportation and power plants are the two main sources of smog in North Carolina. But for the greater Charlotte area, "it's mostly cars," says David Farren, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, which has been pushing the EPA to tighten restrictions on ozone. Yesterday, EPA director Lisa Jackson said the new standards will improve life for millions of Americans with respiratory conditions like asthma. But Mecklenburg County Air Quality director Don Willard says the region has been unable to meet even the less-strict Bush Administration standards. He says the fix is likely to be expensive for local businesses. "Historically speaking businesses have borne the brunt of environmental rules and if you hadn't been regulated before you may be regulated in the future because we have to start with the big guys, the big emitters first and then you just have to work your way down," stated Willard. Willard says the region may also have to impose restrictions on individual drivers, but nothing specific has been approved yet. If a region fails to meet pollution standards, the EPA can revoke federal highway funds. So far, the Charlotte region has failed to come up with a plan acceptable to the EPA, even under the old ozone standards. David Farren of the Southern Environmental Law Center says that's despite a push for light rail in Charlotte. "For all the great things that are occurring in Central Charlotte, in some areas of the region, they are being undermined by more sprawling growth, no-mixed-use development," Farren says. Farren says coordination is part of the problem, since Mecklenburg County and seven surrounding counties are all part of the region being measured as one by the EPA.