Grant Jackson on Air Quality

July 29, 2008

COLUMBIA, SC – July 29, 2008

By C. Grant Jackson
Senior Vice President for Community Development
The Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce

The Midlands of South Carolina faces an air quality crisis.
Helping the region work toward meeting new air quality standards is the focus of the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce’s Environment and Quality of Life Task Force. Protecting and improving our Environment and Quality of Life, which is one of our region’s major business assets, and ensuring that we have communities and neighborhoods that will attract the creative class is one of the eight initiatives under the Navigating from good to Great campaign.

The Environment and Quality of Life Task Force is led by chamber volunteer Fred Hanna, senior operations manager of BP Barber. Other task force members include Ted Chalgren of Cox & Dinkins; Merrill Stout, the owner of Southland Sanitation; Steve Matthews, former managing partner of the Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd law firm; as well as representatives of state and local government agencies.

On March 12, 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, lowered the federal standard for ground level ozone, commonly called smog. Failing to meet that standard could likely push the Midlands into what is called non-attainment status.

For local businesses and organizations, this can have a variety of negative impacts. Non-attainment can limit production capabilities of existing industries and preclude siting of new industries. Non-attainment can also mean stricter requirements on spending of federal highway funds. It is also costly and time-consuming to develop and implement plans to regain attainment status.

One of the Task Force’s major initiatives was a decision to pursue a clean air project award under the Sustainable Skylines Program offered through the Environmental Protection Agency The Chamber has offered to be the managing body for the project under a collaborative effort that hopes to include the Central Midlands Council of Governments, members of the Regional Intergovernmental Forum and the University of South Carolina.

But the Environment and Quality of Life Task Force is not focused solely on air quality issues.

Other recommendations from the Environment and Quality of Life task force adopted by the chamber include:

• Facilitating the exchange of information on what business and governments in the Midlands are currently doing to address issues of clean air, clean water and energy alternatives, including conservation.
• Facilitating the creation of a Chamber Green Business Council. The council would become an advocate for legislative change on improving air and water quality and conservation. It would provide a forum for increasing awareness of new technologies and environmental programs for businesses. It would also recognize businesses/leaders that are making progress with clean air and water and supporting efforts in the community to develop alternative energy solutions and conservation practices.
• Planning a Chamber Inter Regional visit on Clean Air to a city that is currently dealing with the non – attainment issue and which has made significant strides in implementing progressive strategies to mitigate the issue.
• Facilitating the creation of a Value Proposition on Clean Air for the business community and the creation of a Clean Air Toolbox for both business and local government stakeholders to adopt.

The chamber has also been working with the Central Midlands Council of Governments Midlands Air Quality Forum to help business understand the potential impact of the new federal air quality standards. In June, more than 60 individuals from the private and public sectors attended a session of the forum at the Chamber with a focus on what business can do to help.

The chamber has been an active supporter and is now a partner with the City of Columbia’s Climate Protection Action Campaign’s Green is Good for Business conferences and its Green Business Boot Camps.

The chamber hopes to be recognized as a Green Business under the city of Columbia’s Climate Protection Action Campaign.

In early 2008, the Board of Directors of The Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce approved an Environmental Policy Statement:

The Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce believes that environmentally conscious practices and business success are not mutually exclusive. The chamber is committed to operating in a manner to protect and improve our environment and the health and safety of our employees and visitors. The chamber is committed not only to operating as an environmentally friendly business but also to serving as a role model for the business community. We are committed to encouraging our employees and all members of the business community to take continual steps to improve environmental responsibility through conservation, recycling and personal choices.