Q&A with Mark Vanlandingham

Central Oklahoma’s air condition may become an economic concern

Published: Wednesday, June 10, 2009 7:00 am By: Don MeCoy, Business Writer

The Oklahoman

Q: Is clean air a significant issue in central Oklahoma?
A: Yes, and it is expected to become a much bigger issue later this summer. The central Oklahoma area is dangerously close to failing to meet the Environmental Protection Agency's ozone standard, also known as receiving a non-attainment designation. The status of the air quality in the metropolitan area not only has an impact on the health and welfare of our citizens, but also on our capacity to pursue economic development projects for the area. It also impacts our overall quality of life and our image.

Q: What impact does air quality have on the local economy?
A: Having a "dirty air" designation can hamper our ability to attract large employers that will require an air-quality permit to operate. It also stifles the process of building streets, roads and new infrastructure because it adds another level of regulatory review to every project. Consumers are hurt because most of the increased costs incurred by businesses will be passed on to them. It also hurts small businesses such as paint and body shops and dry cleaners because it may require new operational equipment.

Q: What is the Chamber (and others) doing to boost awareness about clean air?
A: We've always recognized the importance of maintaining our clean air standing with EPA and are now taking extra steps to make sure our members recognize that the Oklahoma City metropolitan area is precariously close to violating the clean air standards. The Central Oklahoma Regional Advocacy Alliance is hosting a Clean Air Forum June 17 at Oklahoma Christian University and the Greater OKC Chamber is serving as sponsor of that event. The forum will focus on the impact of a nonattainment designation for central Oklahoma and its business community. Information about this event can be found on the Chamber's Web site http://www.okcchamber.com/.

Q: Are clean air alert days becoming more frequent?
A: Because EPA's standards have become more stringent, it is likely that Alert Days will become more common. Alert Days are only predictive and don't necessarily correlate with high ozone readings. However, they generally indicate that ozone levels could be elevated, and because of the stricter standard, we may have many Ozone Days this summer. The region generally averages about seven a year.

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