Southeast Missouri's regional planning commission adopts clean air plan, seeks EPA funding

Thursday, May 13, 2010
Angran Xiao fills up his tank Wednesday at Kidd's on Broadway in Cape Girardeau. One initiative in a regional planning commission's air quality plan is to get people to "stop at the click" to avoid spills from overfilling their tanks. (KRISTIN EBERTS)

Ways for businesses, local governments and area residents to improve the air are outlined in a new regional Clean Air Action Plan.

The Southeast Missouri Regional Planning and Economic Development Commission is seeking an $80,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency's Community Action for a Renewed Environment program to fund initiatives outlined in the plan.

"Based on the potential of being designated as a nonattainment area, we wanted to be proactive and voluntary in our approach to dealing with this issue," said David Grimes, regional planner at the commission in Perryville, Mo.

A decision on whether some Southeast Missouri counties fail to meet federal air quality standards, commonly referred to as nonattainment, has been delayed as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers adopting tougher guidelines. In January, the EPA extended the deadline for designating areas with too much ground-level ozone, the key ingredient in smog. The EPA will make a decision on its ozone guidelines by Aug. 31.

Grimes and others on the planning commission's Air Quality Task Force aren't waiting on the EPA designation to start making changes to improve local air quality.

"We don't have a big electric generating utility we can go after," Grimes said. "What we can do is attack these things through education and outreach."

No topping off the tank

"Stop at the Click" is one program included in the plan to encourage people not to overfill their vehicle's gasoline tanks after the automatic cutoff on the fuel nozzle has stopped the flow of gas.

Topping off the tank one "click" too many will cause fuel spills releasing volatile organic compounds into the air, Grimes said.

Other steps in the plan include replacing old gasoline cans with new ones that minimize spills and control vapors; using battery-powered lawn equipment; and using electric starters rather than lighter fluid when grilling.

"This might seem like a trivial item, but the half-cup of charcoal starter multiplied by a thousand uses quickly adds up to a significant emission," the plan says.

Implementing "Clean Air Zones" where cars are prohibited to run idle is another project proposed in the plan. These zones could be established in areas where idling is common, such as schools where parents wait to pick up their children, Grimes said.

The plan also incorporates steps local governments can take to improve air quality such as choosing low-emission and fuel-efficient vehicles for city crews and staff to drive, providing recycling facilities and restricting open burning of waste.

Grimes recently visited many of the municipalities and county commissions within the planning commission's coverage area, getting government bodies to adopt resolutions of support for the Clean Air Action Plan.

"They're saying it's a good idea," Grimes said.

Bollinger, Cape Girardeau, Iron, Perry, St. Francois and Ste. Genevieve counties have all adopted resolutions of support. Madison is the only county in the region that has not, Grimes said.

Private businesses will also be asked to voluntarily reduce emissions as part of the Clean Air Action Plan. Using better emission-control systems, improving equipment maintenance and implementing energy-efficiency programs are all outlined in the plan.

The planning commission's Air Quality Task Force includes representatives from local government and major industries in the area.

"We recognize the importance of air quality in our community and are taking an active role to improve it through our participation on the SEMO Regional Planning Commission's Air Quality Task Force," said task force member Linda Greaser, site industrial engineer and public affairs at Procter & Gamble.

The planning commission is assisting local governments and businesses through government grant programs aimed at improving air quality including:

* Missouri Clean Diesel: A Department of Natural Resources program for public and private owners of diesel trucks or equipment providing financial assistance to purchase new equipment to reduce diesel emissions. Eight diesel trucks owned by three people were upgraded; the city of Cape Girardeau bought three new trash trucks, and Procter & Gamble put new low-emissions motors in two forklifts.

* Energize Missouri Communities: Funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, this will replace 65,000 fluorescent tube lights in five communities, including schools and municipal offices in Cape Girardeau, Jackson, Leopold and Oak Ridge.

mmiller@semissourian.com

388-3646

Pertinent address:

1 W. Saint Joseph St., Perryville, MO

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