Alexander: EPA Approval of Clean Air Attainment for TN Counties for Ozone “Means More Good Jobs and Healthier Air”

Decision follows Alexander getting commitment from EPA head to quickly review Tennessee’s application on behalf of Knox, Blount and Anderson counties

Posted on July 13, 2015

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“I applaud the work of Commissioner Martineau, Mayor Burchett, Mayor Mitchell, Mayor Frank and other leaders in these counties, and am glad the EPA has recognized that in East Tennessee, the air is clean and we’re open for business.” — Lamar Alexander

WASHINGTON, July 13, 2015 – U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said today that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to grant Knox, Blount and Anderson counties clean air attainment status for ozone “means more good jobs and healthier air” for East Tennessee. The EPA’s decision comes after Alexander got a commitment in April from EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to quickly review the application by Commissioner Bob Martineau of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.

Alexander said: “This decision means more good jobs and healthier air for East Tennesseans. Receiving federal clean air attainment status for ozone further shows that the air is demonstrably cleaner in Knox, Blount and Anderson counties, and allows companies looking to bring jobs to East Tennessee to more easily get permits to build new plants. I applaud the work of Commissioner Martineau, Mayor Burchett, Mayor Mitchell, Mayor Frank and other leaders in these counties, and am glad the EPA has recognized that in East Tennessee, the air is clean and we’re open for business.”

Commissioner Bob Martineau said: “Our state’s air continues to measure cleaner than it has in many decades, and that is thanks to responsible action by many actors and effective Tennessee leadership over the past thirty years. Our balanced, cooperative approach is delivering positive results for Tennessee, including a better environment and healthier lives.” 

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett said: “This is something that I and my staff, along with Sen. Lamar Alexander and other state and local officials have worked on for several years, and I’m happy to see our area reach attainment of EPA air quality standards. Being in attainment will not only have a positive impact on the environment and public health, it also will encourage economic development by sending a signal to businesses that Knox County and East Tennessee are open for business.”

Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell said: “This is great and exciting news for Blount County. Clean air attainment has been a collaborative effort by many businesses and industries, but it would not have been possible without the diligence of Senator Alexander, Blount, Knox, and Anderson counties. I want to thank Senator Alexander and his staff for their tireless efforts and hard work.”

Anderson County Mayor Terry Frank said: “We are so happy to hear the great news from the EPA that we’ve reached attainment status. Improving our air quality has taken incredible teamwork, and that work has paid off.  Governor Haslam, TDEC, and TVA have been excellent partners in our progress.  We are especially grateful for Senator Alexander’s leadership and tireless work on this issue that is so vital to our quality of life and local economy.”

Under the federal Clean Air Act, counties must show they’ve met the National Ambient Air Quality Standards to receive what is known as “attainment status.” Counties that have not attained clean air under federal guidelines must comply with tougher air emission standards, which means companies looking to build new manufacturing plants must use more pollution control equipment. That makes it more expensive for companies to locate within nonattainment counties and create jobs, Alexander said.

The senator is also a cosponsor of The Clean Air, Strong Economies (CASE) Act, which would limit the economic harm that could be caused by further lowering the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone across the country.  

Alexander said the state of Tennessee, the Tennessee Valley Authority and local counties have all worked together to improve the air quality in East Tennessee. Counties working to improve their air quality should have time to comply with the current ozone standard before EPA implements a new ozone standard, he said.

The senator received McCarthy’s commitment for a swift review of Tennessee’s clean air attainment application for ozone on behalf of Knox, Blount and Anderson counties at a hearing of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior and Environment in April. Alexander is a member of that subcommittee, and chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy & Water Development.

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