The Statesville City Council and Troutman Board of Commissioners unanimously adopted resolutions last week opposing a proposal by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to declare all of Iredell County a "non-attainment area" - one that has failed to meet minimum air-quality standards.
Officials from both municipalities warned that passage of the EPA proposal, designed to lower ozone limits, would hurt future economic growth in the region.
Ozone is an invisible, odorless gas that forms when emissions from cars, trucks, factories and other sources react. It is worst on hot, stagnant days. Mecklenburg County is already designated as a non-attainment area.
"This is a fairly big deal as we approach the next decade," Statesville City Manager Rob Hites said. "Under the current recession, it is certainly not a great time to require extra equipment and other regulatory steps from companies doing business here."
The issue involves a proposed ruling the EPA issued Jan. 6 that would lower the permitted ozone standard from 0.08 parts per million to between 0.06 and 0.07 ppm.
That would make all of Iredell County a non-attainment area. At present, only a portion of Mooresville has that designation.
In their resolution, Statesville officials said non-attainment status carries "serious implications for economic investment and job development, potentially making it harder for Iredell County's 20 permitted industries to grow," and implementation would impose "additional expense on local governments, employers and families at a time of extreme economic hardship."
Troutman officials echoed those concerns. "If these proposals are adopted, it will make it very difficult for future industries to locate in our town," Town Manager David Saleeby warned.
EPA officials estimate the new rules could place as many as 600 additional counties nationwide in violation of the ozone standards. EPA is suggesting the change to ensure that ozone standards are "clearly grounded in science, protect public health ... and are sufficient to protect the environment."
The proposed standard is based on the advice of a science panel whose recommendation in 2008 to lower the ozone limit was rejected by the Bush administration. A final decision is expected by late summer.
Officials from Iredell County are not the only ones concerned. At a hearing in California, contractors expressed opposition, claiming major progress had already been made in clearing the air and the new standards would be very difficult to meet.
At the council's March 11 pre-agenda briefing, council member Paula Steele suggested that Statesville, Troutman and Mooresville also send a joint letter to the EPA.