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WNC Air Quality News

Standing Ovation Awards - 2005

Nine local leaders are being recognized by the Western North Carolina Regional Air Quality Agency for their outstanding efforts to improve air quality in the region. All have gone above and beyond what is required by air quality rules and regulations to make a real difference in reducing pollution in their communities.

Those being recognized are: Alcan Packaging, Blue Ridge Biofuels, Buncombe County General Services Department, City of Asheville, Metropolitan Sewerage District of Buncombe County, Progress Energy Carolinas, Shorewood Packaging Corporation, Volvo Construction Equipment Group, and Warren Wilson College.

Alcan Packaging (Alcan) has reengineered a cleaning process for its manufacturing equipment that captures and reuses solvents that were once vented to the atmosphere. This change has significantly reduced emissions of volatile organic compounds and improved indoor air quality for employees. Alcan also added ISO 14001 Environmental Management Certification to its ISO 9001 Quality Management Certification at the Asheville plant in 2005, and joined the Million Monitor Drive* by pledging to power down 30 computer monitors when not in use.

Blue Ridge Biofuels (BRB) is a worker-owned business that is committed to helping build the local alternative energy economy by producing affordable clean fuels for the community of Asheville. With assistance from a grant from the NC Solar Center, BRB opened the first biodiesel pump in Western North Carolina in July of 2005. Located at the Gas Up in West Asheville, this pump is one of the only publicly accessible pumps to offer high biodiesel blends, such as B99 and B100, in the entire southeastern United States. Also in 2005, BRB purchased a fuel delivery truck to deliver bioheat for fuel oil furnaces with a grant from NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NC DENR). Biodiesel is cleaner than petroleum diesel fuel, reducing carbon monoxide (CO) and particulate matter emissions by 50%, sulfate emissions by 100%, and hydrocarbon emissions by 80-90%.

The Buncombe County General Services Department is being recognized for its efforts to reduce air emissions and improve air quality. In 2005, the department built a biodiesel fueling center at the transfer station and began using biodiesel in all County ambulances and in the transfer station fleet with plans to expand use to the landfill off-road fleet. In addition, the General Services Department has made improvements in roadways at the landfill to reduce fugitive dust emissions, and has been actively researching innovative technologies to further reduce emissions from off-road equipment.

The City of Asheville opened our community's first public compressed natural gas (CNG) station in 2005. The City partnered with Buncombe County Government and Mission Hospitals to obtain funding from NC DENR to build the station, which fills a gap in CNG stations between Hickory and Knoxville. Citizens will now be able to travel in a CNG vehicle from the North Carolina coast to Asheville and west to Knoxville, Tennessee. Natural gas is one of the cleanest burning alternative fuels available. Emissions of CO and nitrogen oxides (NOx) are reduced by approximately 90% and 60%, respectively, compared to gasoline.

The Metropolitan Sewerage District of Buncombe County (MSD) became the first public utility in WNC to use biodiesel fuel (B20) in all of its diesel-powered vehicles in 2003. Currently, there are over 65 licensed vehicles including pickups, tandem axle dump trucks, heavy sewer line flushers, backhoes, track hoes, trailer air compressors, generators, and other smaller equipment utilizing biodiesel, and MSD plans to continue to expand its use.

Progress Energy Carolinas, Inc. (Progress Energy) Asheville Plant located in Arden has been an industry leader in implementing new technologies to control air emissions since 1997. Progress Energy is being recognized for supporting the NC Clean Smokestacks Act by installing scrubbers and selective catalytic reduction (also known as SCR) technology at the Asheville Steam Plant. This equipment, the first of its kind to be installed at a NC electric generating plant, will result in cleaner air for our citizens sooner than mandated by the Act. The first scrubber went online in the fall of 2005. When the entire $190 million dollar project is completed in2009, NOx emissions will be reduced by 93% compared to 1996 levels, and sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions will decrease by 93% compared to 2001 levels, making the Asheville plant among the cleanest coal-burning power plants in the country.

Shorewood Packaging's Weaverville facility has a very strong Environmental, Health, and Safety program that has demonstrated a commitment to researching and utilizing less-polluting products in its printing process. In 2005, the facility reformulated its process chemicals to significantly reduce volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions. The company also decreased its energy usage by joining the Million Monitor Drive, pledging to implement sleep settings on 50 computer monitors when not in use.

Volvo Construction Equipment is being recognized for air pollution reductions associated with reducing energy usage, reformulating process chemicals, and replacing the company car with a hybrid vehicle. Energy conservation measures include lighting upgrades that will reduce electrical consumption by 50%, installation of additional insulation in buildings and ductwork, timers and motion sensors on lighting and compressors, installation of programmable thermostats, speed doors, door seals, and dock shelters. Process chemical reformulation in a coating process involved switching from a solvent-based cleaner to a water-based biodegradable cleaner, resulting in a VOC reduction of 40% and hazardous waste generation reduction of 52%. Replacing the company vehicle with a hybrid vehicle cut gasoline consumption in half.

Warren Wilson College is involved with numerous pollution prevention efforts. It is being recognized for utilizing the EPA ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager tool to conduct energy-benchmarking projects across the campus. Under this program, all 16 dormitories and 7 office buildings have been benchmarked, and plans have been made to utilize the data collected to make upgrades and quantify energy savings and pollution offsets. The collected data can be shared with other colleges and organizations to further promote this valuable program.

The Regional Air Quality Agency is responsible for air quality permitting and enforcement in Asheville and Buncombe County. We are pleased to present these awards to highlight voluntary efforts to improve air quality in Western North Carolina. Each of these organizations deserves a “Standing Ovation” for its hard work and dedication in protecting and strengthening this vital natural resource.

A reception honoring the Standing Ovation Award recipients will take place on January 9, 2006 at 3 pm at the Agency. For more information, call 828-250-6777.