February 13, 2017

Omaha-Council Bluffs area dangerously close to air quality consequences

The Omaha-Council Bluffs metro area has an average ozone level of 67 parts per billion (ppb), very close to the recently-tightened 70 ppb limit set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). If the region exceeds this limit, it will go into “non-attainment”, an extremely punitive EPA designation that has long-term consequences on a region’s ability to grow and prosper.

Ground-level ozone is particularly problematic during summer months. That’s why the Metropolitan Area Planning Agency (MAPA) conducts an annual consumer information campaign during the summer to help citizens make choices that can keep Omaha’s air clean.

Included in MAPA’s Little Steps Big Impact campaign is a recommendation to choose cleaner-burning renewable biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel. “Beginning last year, we really started highlighting the benefits of cleaner-burning biofuels such as American Ethanol as one of the little steps people can take,” said Greg Youell, MAPA executive director. “In some other metro areas, we’ve seen a correlation between the increased adoption of biofuels and a reduction of ground-level ozone levels. So we’re urging people to take a little step of choosing biofuels at the pump that will yield big impacts that help all of us have cleaner air to breathe and enjoy every day.”

Other Little Steps Big Impact recommendations include carpooling, use of public transit and walking or biking to work.

Youell said it’s paramount that the Omaha region avoid exceeding the EPA air quality standards. “If a region goes into non-attainment, it is very difficult to get out of it,” Youell added. “Once you’re designated, it can take up to 20 years to get out even if your air quality improves and you don’t have any more violations.”

Youell said that going into non-attainment has serious consequences on a community. “It would have a dramatic effect on industry and growth in the Omaha metro area. Any industry that has emissions would not be able to expand – and any new industry coming to town would be prevented from doing so without going through a permitting process that requires them to identify how their emissions will be offset,” he said. “Non-attainment really hinders economic development, and that has a ripple effect through the area in terms of job growth, tax revenue and economic vitality.”

We are dedicated to being proactive in order to maintain our clean air quality status and we strongly believe that increasing the use of biofuels such as American Ethanol is a sensible and simple strategy to help us do just that,” Youell said.

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