The air we breathe is at the center of controversy. The ozone standard is 75 parts per billion and the EPA wants that changed to around 60 in October. Some say setting new ozone guidelines is "bad for business." The EPA is expected to strenghten air quality standards for ground ozone levels. But business owners say doing so will make it more expensive for businesses to build new offices or expand.
John Stewart has been in the tire industry since he graduated college and is now a plant manager at Bridgestone Firestone in Aiken. and John's concerned about the future of businesses in the area. "Well ultimately, if a business reduces operations here or fails to move here...that's going to hurt the economy because that hurts jobs," he says.
The EPA wants to lower the ozone standard to around 60 ppm because research shows people's health is affected when it's higher. But if they lower it, it will be lowered across the country.
Fred Humes, Director of Economic Development in Aiken and Edgefield Dounty says that it's not fair to businesses that will become noncompliant. "Noncompliance means that if you are below the standard...you have to take certain measures and there are certain things you are not qualified for...like highway funding." Fred says that could mean businesses would go elsewhere. "In general, this legislation would make it more difficult for businesses, in particular, large businesses and manufacturering to achieve air permitting. It means they would have to spend additional money to meet the new standards and that's going to be a costly process for them," says Fred. This could mean large businesses and plants could slow production and keep newer plants out.
The Clean Air Campaign says air quality in South Carolina and Georgia is actually improving. While it is good, around 24 counties in Georgia still fail to meet the current ozone standard. So depending on how much it's lowered, businesses in Aiken County may soon violate the new ozone standard. "If you want the community to thrive you need to have manufacturing thrive and so make it easy for the manufacturers to grow...the more you add red tape..the more the companies are going to go elsewhere and that's not good for us, says John.