Mayor addresses Economic Council about air quality
County Mayor Larry Waters took advantage of the regular meeting of the Sevier County Economic Development Council Wednesday morning to start spreading the word about what “non-attainment” will mean for Sevier County in the future.
The Environmental Protection Agency rejected an early-action compact for the Knoxville area that included the county, and placed the counties in the region in non-attainment for its new air-quality standards. Waters had just returned from a Tuesday meeting in Nashville with Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation officials on the matter.
Waters explained to Council members that, of direct concern to the group, were the limitations that will be placed on new industry if they produce pollutant emissions. “Luckily we haven’t ever recruited that type of industry to the area,” said Council Director Allen Newton. None of the county’s current manufacturers were considered a major factor to the county’s air quality.
The largest concern was a new approval step for any future road projects in the county. Roads not already under contract for construction by July 1, 2005 will be put under an air quality review.
The review will determine if the new road will increase air pollution, and if it does the project will be denied if it has federal dollars involved. All state-funded highway projects contain federal dollars.
Sevierville City Manager Doug Bishop told the group that the Transportation Board would be pushing to get as many of the approved but as of yet uncontracted road projects through the bidding and under state contract over the next year as they could to get under the deadline.
The sticking point for Waters and other government leaders across the region is that the early action compacts for the Knoxville, Chattanooga and Memphis areas were the only three compacts denied this year by the EPA. The mayor informed the council that the unofficial word he received was that pressure from some conservation groups had contributed to the denial.
The truly frustrating part to the board was the word on the cause of the problem. “Even if we do everything we can on the list, we will still not be in attainment,” said Waters. The mayor referred to reports that show a large amount of air pollution registered in the monitoring sites at the higher elevations of the national park are not produced locally.