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Air Quality Excellence Awards - 2013


Since 2004, the Western North Carolina Regional Air Quality Agency (WNCRAQA) has been giving special recognition to local businesses and other organizations that have gone above and beyond air quality rules and regulations to implement voluntary, innovative programs that reduce air pollution in our region.  Last year, with the assistance of the Agency’s Advisory Committee, the awards program was updated and expanded to include more detailed guidelines and generate more interest from the local community.  We are pleased to announce the recipients of the tenth-annual Clean Air Excellence Awards.  This year, WNCRAQA is presenting the Clean Air Excellence Award to Blue Ridge Biofuels, LLC, Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office, City of Asheville Water Resources Department, and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Blue Ridge Biofuels, LLC is a worker-owned biodiesel company committed to making fuel from local resources and strengthening the community through local sustainability initiatives.  Since opening in 2005, they have sold over 1.3 million gallons of locally-produced biodiesel, which has kept over 11,000 tons of carbon dioxide out of our region’s atmosphere.  Initiatives include a cooking oil recycling program, the Field to Fryer to Fuel Tank (F3) project, energy partnerships with the North Carolina Biodiesel Association and Evolve Energy Partnership, education and outreach in the community, and green job training.  Blue Ridge Biofuels is committed to benefitting the community with sustainable practices through the triple bottom line concept with a focus on improving the community, environment, and the economy.

The Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office has converted 10 Ford Crown Victorias in the fleet to run on clean propane autogas, with funding through the Southeast Propane Autogas Development Program.  Operating fleet vehicles on autogas goes hand-in-hand with the sheriff office’s mission to clean up the community and create a better environment for future generations of Buncombe County.  Propane autogas-powered vehicles emit fewer harmful emissions than gasoline vehicles, including a 20 percent reduction in carbon monoxide, 40 percent less nitrogen oxides, and a 10 to 18 percent reduction in carbon dioxide.  With 10 patrol cars running on autogas since February 2012, the sheriff’s fleet is displacing about 20 tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually.  When it came to choosing an alternative fuel to power their fleet, the sheriff’s office considered the reduction in the overall carbon footprint for the county, in addition to fuel cost savings and vehicle performance.  Propane autogas was the practical fuel choice because it supports all three of these goals.  The patrol cars travel an average of almost 25,000 miles each year, so they’re using about 17,000 gallons of propane autogas annually.  The sheriff’s fleet is also saving more than $13,000 annually on fuel cost savings alone operating 10 autogas vehicles.  Ninety-eight percent of the nation’s autogas supply is domestically produced, so fleets running on autogas are helping to support U.S. energy security.  Not only is propane autogas 20 percent cleaner than gasoline, U.S. fleets save more than $1-per-gallon filling with autogas versus gasoline. 

The City of Asheville Water Resources Department is being recognized for voluntarily opting in to the agency’s permitting program and having a certified ISO 14001 Environmental Management System.  City of Asheville Water Resources Department is committed to maintaining compliance with all applicable regulations, pollution prevention, and continuous improvement in product, systems, and processes to maximize customer satisfaction.  They have demonstrated leadership in this area and meet the guidelines outlined in the Clean Air Excellence Awards.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center has made numerous energy efficiency upgrades and improvements in 2012 that have resulted in significant energy savings and air pollution emission reductions.  These voluntary measures include replacing windows, a reflective roof, lighting upgrades to LED technology in the parking lot, upgrades to HVAC controls and the chiller system, the addition of vestibules, energy efficient kitchen equipment, and the use of power management settings on computers.  The pollution prevented by these projects amount to approximately 600 tons of greenhouse gases, 1.9 tons of sulfur dioxide, and 0.74 tons of nitrogen oxides per year.

Awards will be presented at the beginning of the WNCRAQA Board Meeting on May 14th at 4:00 pm at the Agency’s office on Mount Carmel Road.

For additional information, please contact the Agency at 828-250-6777, wncair@buncombecounty.org, or visit the website at www.wncairquality.org.