CIBO’s plan for improving the air

Thank you for allowing the Council of Independent Business Owners the opportunity to address the readers of the Mountain Xpress concerning your recent articles on CIBO’s involvement with the local air-pollution issue.

To begin, the air-pollution agency, along with the proposals regarding the Clean Air Community Trust Fund, have never been emotional issues with us. CIBO has dealt, and will always deal, in a factual manner regarding any issue. We have found that if an issue becomes personal and/or emotional, irrational behavior occurs and the resulting decisions are flawed.

We feel the following facts are pertinent to the issue of air quality:

Fact #1: Air pollution in this area is getting worse.

Fact #2: Local businesses, industries and citizens must follow all the existing rules. We have never advocated that any business or individual be given special consideration. It is our position that the rules should be clearly spelled-out and that everyone in this county be expected to follow the rules as written.

Fact #3: Eighty-four percent of the air pollution impacting this area migrates here from outside the area. (Statistic used by the local air agency. Source: Dr. Robert Bruck, N.C. State University.)

Fact #4: Only 16 percent of our air pollution is produced locally.

Fact #5: One TVA plant in Tennessee, the Cumberland Plant, produces enough air pollution that generally migrates over our area to equal the exhaust of 7.3 million cars. (There are only 6.9 million cars in the entire state of North Carolina.) There are many other out-of-state polluters. (Statistic used by the local air agency. Source: Hugh Morton, owner of Grandfather Mountain.)

Fact #6: The process surrounding the setting up of the new air agency and the trust fund was a moving target. A final document governing the trust fund was never presented for review or specific comment. Even as late as the Environmental Management Commission subcommittee’s hearing on the issue, a document was not available. When asked about the trust-fund document by subcommittee members, Asheville City Attorney Bob Oast responded that the city and county did not exactly know what they wanted to do and that the document would be completed once the air agency received approval from the Environmental Management Commission. These actions could involve up to $900,000 of public money.

Obviously, we must attack the local sources of air pollution, but we must concentrate our efforts on reducing the sources that will impact our area the most. To ignore our neighbors and allow them to continue uninterrupted air-pollution releases is unconscionable. Recently, CIBO’s executive director and the then-chairman of the air agency met for breakfast. The former chairman spent considerable time discussing staggering the start and close times of local businesses, schools, etc. She stated that on certain poor-air-quality days, this may be required due to air-pollution levels. The question immediately came up from CIBO: How can you penalize the businesses, families and children in this area and not respond to the major sources of air pollution entering our area? There was no answer, other than a persistent punitive attitude toward local folks.

There is no logic to this proposed solution of totally concentrating on the pollution generated here and ignoring all other sources. Until all of us, including the Mountain Xpress, resolve to address the real problem sources of air pollution, the result will be:

• continued increases in morbidity rates

• an economy that will suffer

• mountains that will continue to be covered with a thick cloud of smoke

• acid rain that will continue to pour over the tops of mountains and kill our trees, and

• a diminished quality of life.

Finally, we have noticed that your paper has referred to a lawsuit that you said was brought by our organization concerning the air agency. This is untrue. And from what we’ve been told, your reporter was informed of that fact by the individual bringing the lawsuit. Don’t let emotionalism rule your paper.

[R.M. Swicegood is president of the Council of Independent Business Owners.]

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