Oklahoma could get 'dirty'

Tuesday, June 17th 2008, 10:31 am
By: News 9

By Darren Brown, News9.com INsite team

Oklahoma's air could soon be getting dirty.  Not because of any changes here in the state, but because of new federal standards for ozone levels.

This past March, the Environmental Protection Agency changed the allowable ozone level from .08 to .075 parts per million for an eight hour average.  To most of us, that means nothing, but for the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, it means reaching for an almost impossible goal. 

Curt Goeller is an environmental program specialist for the Oklahoma DEQ.  He says levels around the state will be affected. 

"We monitor that all the time, and we know that it's gonna be real difficult for our monitors to attain that standard this year," Goeller said.

Ozone in the upper atmosphere is crucial to protect us from the sun's rays, but pollutants emitted here at ground level create ozone also.  Ozone at this level is not only unwanted, but dangerous to those with respiratory problems.

"'Good up high, bad nearby' is a saying that we try to teach all the kids when we do some environmental outreach programs," Goeller said. 

The Association of Central Oklahoma Governments claims the new federal standards were put into place due to health concerns, but may have even more of an economic effect on Oklahoma.

John Johnson, the executive director of ACOG thinks Oklahoma will have to "recover" from the designation.  

"It's going to seriously impact road construction, in my opinion in Oklahoma, and it will probably have a dampening effect on economic development, because of air permits," Johnson said. "We probably will be designated as a moderately non-attainment, but the flipside punishment for that is we will have a shorter window of time to bring ourselves back into attainment." 

It's projected that at least nine counties will be considered to be in non-attainment, or dirty air status.  Those counties are mainly in and around Oklahoma City and Tulsa.  However, there could be more.  ACOG is anxiously awaiting the federal designations and guidelines to get the counties back into clean air status. 

For more information on how you can help cut down on ground level ozone, check the links to your right.  Also, check the CONTEST  tab on our home page to find out how you could win one of six electric lawnmowers to be given away in July.