According to the Athens Banner-Herald, Georgia’s air quality has improved significantly over the past decade, largely due to shuttered coal-fired plants and lower emissions in newer automobiles and construction equipment.
Emissions of ozone-forming sulfur dioxide (SO2) declined from more than 700,000 tons a year in 2005 to less than 100,000 tons in 2015, according to EPD records.
In the same 10 years, emissions of nitrous oxide and nitrous dioxide (NOX) have also come down sharply, though not as steeply as SO2.
NOX emissions rose to around 650,000 tons per year in 2007, but by 2014 and 2015 had dipped below 400,000, according to EPD’s monitoring data.
It’s good enough that the state Environmental Protection Division sent a request to the Environmental Protection Agency last September that seven counties (Paulding, Douglas, Coweta, Fayette, Cherokee, Forsyth, and Newton) be dropped from the Atlanta non-attainment zone — a change that could take place as soon as this fall. That would leave eight metro counties within the non-attainment zone, which means these areas still do not meet the National Ambiant Air Quality Standards set by federal law. The ozone standard is currently .70 ppm.
Breathe easy, Doughnut-area friends: It could always be worse.
Snark aside, it isn’t that bad in Atlanta, though it could be better — and is predicted to become so. One slightly frustrating point for the metro area is that the eight counties that will continue to exist in a non-attainment area are either meeting or close to meeting the standard that existed prior to 2015. Georgia’s Air Protection Branch of the EPD has a fact sheet about what the current lower standard means for us Average Joes available on their website.
Even with only eight counties failing to meet the current standards, this is a far cry from the 28 that were failing to meet a much looser standard 20 years ago.