Source: wate.com | Cameron Taylor | July 14, 2015

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Monday that it is taking final action to approve the state’s request to redesignate the Knoxville area to attainment for the 2008 eight-hour ozone standard.

This action is based on air quality for the three-year period of 2011-2013 that meets the standard. The Knox, Blount and portion of Anderson counties have attained the 2008 8-Hour Ozone Standard in the midst of significant population growth, according to the EPA.

“We commend the Knoxville area for the effort it has undertaken towards improving air quality and reaching this accomplishment,” said EPA Regional Administrator Heather McTeer Toney.

For more than 20 years, the Knoxville Metropolitan Statistical Area worked with the EPA and other stakeholders to develop strategies for achieving attainment standards ozone.

“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,” said Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett. “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.”

Burchett says the Knoxville area has been overlooked by some companies because it didn’t meet federal ozone standards. He says this is one of the biggest accomplishments of his political career.

“This will probably have more impact on more citizens. As far as the impact this is going to have on the region, this is probably at the top of the list.”

Previously, the area had fallen just outside of the EPA’s clean air attainment zone. The mayor says many high tech and carbon fiber companies wouldn’t relocate or expand here because of that.

In a statement, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander said the agency’s decision to grant Knox, Blount and Anderson counties clean air attainment status for ozone means “more good jobs and healthier air.”

“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.”

Air quality monitoring data for 2011, 2012 and 2013 shows that the area does meet the federal standards and so far this year seems to be in good shape, too.

County administrators say the area could lose this designation if the EPA raises its standards again. The air quality management division says the highest ozone emissions come from our cars. To cut down on that, you can keep your car tuned up, your tires inflated and conserve any energy you can.