Our View: Ozone attainment status a boon for area development

It has certainly been a long time coming, but finally, finally, the big black cloud hanging over Crittenden County has been lifted as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the other day it has met the federal 2008 ozone standard. One of the major obstacles facing this county’s economic development leaders in luring environmentally sensitive businesses and industries to our northeast Arkansas area has been this area’s designation of non-attainment for the standard. Being part of the tri-state Memphis Metropolitan area, and as such has been included in the area’s designation of non-attainment for the standard. We’re told the entire Memphis metro has now been redesignated as having attained the standard. Throughout the years, many critics on our side of the Mississippi River have blamed our neighbors in Memphis and Shelby County for the problem. There have been other experts attributing our air quality problems on the enormous amount of heave truck and vehicle traffic passing through Crittenden County on Interstate 55-40. In a governmental propaganda news release, the EPA said the federal Clean Air Act sets standards for ozone that “protect people’s health and the environment.” Under this 2008 dictate that has clearly stymied economic growth, in large part to circumstances beyond this region’s control, the greater Memphis area was classified as a marginal non-attainment area. This governmental news release went on to say, “Arkansas has met all requirements of this Clean Air Act through reductions in vehicle and point-source emissions, and has shown how the area can maintain the improvements in air quality.” That particular observation puzzles us in light of the fact Crittenden County has little to do with the thousands upon thousands of heavy trucks and transient vehicles that travel these two major interstates. EPA Regional Administrator Ron Curry said, “Arkansas has shown that Crittenden County’s air quality has improved and ozone levels are within the Clean Air Act’s protective levels. And, Curry went on to say, “This is good news for everyone’s health, especially children, the elderly, and those with breathing problems.” We have to somewhat chuckle at that canned statement in light of the fact that during the summer months when our agricultural community in Crittenden County sets fields on fire and the smoke chokes the very same people Curry is talking about. We receive countless complaints, as does Crittenden County Judge Woody Wheeless, about how the excessive smoke coming from the burning fields is causing breathing problems. Nevertheless, we should all be pleased that this negative federal environmental designation has been lifted and that it will not longer be a factor in convincing newcomers that Crittenden County is a great place to live and do business.


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