Cleanest Air Ever: Pandemic is accelerating the long-term transfer in direction of cleaner air in NC

Posted by Jeff on Nov 14, 2020 @ 7:00 am in Conservation | 0 comments | Last change: November 13, 2020

When President Richard Nixon’s signing of the Clean Air Act of 1970 caused North Carolina to set up an air quality department, the air quality in western North Carolina was poor.

“In the 80s or 90s, your mountains disappeared as soon as summer came,” recalls Jim Renfro, longtime air quality specialist for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. “You’re out in the valley looking up and you couldn’t see the mountains through the haze.”

In one of the true environmental success stories of the past century, the situation has improved dramatically since then – and when 2020 turns into 2021 it is expected to keep getting better.

“Without a doubt, we are seeing the lowest levels of air pollution recorded since our program began,” said Mike Abraczinskas, director of the NC Air Quality Division. ‚ÄúThis is wonderful news, proof of all of our good work, technological advances, regulatory and non-regulatory actions. North Carolinians definitely breathe the cleanest air they have in their lifetime. “

Data from the early days of the pandemic – March and April – show a reduction in vehicle miles driven by around 30 to 50 percent compared to 2019. In the six months to September 30, 2020, roadside traffic figures at the DAQ in Research Triangle Park went down , one of the busiest stretches of road in North Carolina, fell an average of 26.8 percent compared to the same period last year, Abraczinskas said.

It seems that this drastic reduction in time on the road results in a noticeable improvement in air quality.

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