On Thursday, Sept. 18, CRDC hosted a meeting for local plant managers and safety and environmental staff regarding air quality issues as they impact our region. A presentation was given by Jim McGraw, air quality supervisor, and several other representatives of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources regarding the problems our area may be facing in order to maintain our attainment status.

First of all, you may ask, “what is ‘attainment status?’” In short, attainment status is the freedom for local industry to obtain permits for operations that have the potential to impact the quality of our air. Being in attainment area, means that new industry, or existing industry with plans to grow, can more easily get permission to do so.

Why has air quality become an issue in our area? Rest assured, it is not because we have seen a marked increase in emissions that affected air quality. Our local industries make a concerted effort to minimize their emissions as responsible corporate citizens. The problem is actually steadily increasing regulation of environmental issues. Of course, this is not a bad thing, but as standards become stricter, we must find ways to further reduce impacts in order to stay in compliance. In reality, the city of Clinton has hosted a monitoring station for 10 years. In that time, measurements there have stayed at relatively steady levels, and in recent years, have decreased.

What does this mean for economic development? It may seem odd to some that CRDC, as an economic development agency, would take on the issue of air quality, but falling out of compliance can have some very real consequences for future growth.

If our area should fall to the level of “non-attainment” status, the opposite end of the spectrum, the numbers and types of industry we can recruit to the region is greatly reduced. Local companies will also face challenges for expansion projects. Both of these would hamper our ability to create jobs and investment, and to retain what we already have.

What is the solution? Some of our local companies have already begun addressing the issue of air quality. We will be enlisting their help to scrutinize the sources of any air quality problems and to implement ways to fix them. But industry isn’t the only impact on our air quality. Agriculture, transportation, residential areas can also have a large impact.

Here’s how you can help

n Keep vehicles well, maintained. Or better yet, find ways to drive less. Bike or walk whenever possible, use public transportation, carpool.

n Burning trash is allowed in some areas, but just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Compost yard waste and other organic materials, and reuse or recycle whenever possible.

n Find ways to reduce energy consumption at home. Local utility companies offer free energy audits. They can recommend solutions like weather stripping for windows and doors, programmable thermostats, adding insulation, etc. The best part — all of these measures will also save you money in the long run.

These and more solutions are included in the IDNR publication called “100 Ways you can Save the Earth.” Check it out. And while you do your part, CRDC will continue to do our part, helping to create an environment in which we all can grow.

Steven Ames is the president and CEO of the Clinton Regional Development Corp.

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