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Keeping Oaky Woods Undeveloped Could Help Air Quality in Houston County

In January of 2004 21st Century Partnership, the community partner organization for Warner Robins Air Force Base in Middle Georgia, realized that two federal processes were about to converge and potentially place Robins AFB at risk of closure. US EPA had recently begun its process to designate counties around the country as non-attainment for their new and stricter 8-hour ground level ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standard. At the same time, the Department of Defense (DoD) was beginning their data call for military bases in preparation for the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Process (BRAC). The designation as non-attainment for Houston County, home to Robins AFB, would have put the base at risk for closure or at least would have imposed limits to future mission growth. The economic impact of base closure to the community is on the order of a $4 billion loss, in addition to forever changing the character of Middle Georgia.

In cooperation with County elected officials, Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division, and the Georgia Congressional delegation, the Clark Group coordinated the review and analysis of air quality modeling studies to show the true nature of Houston County’s contribution to this environmental issue. Working with senior regional and headquarters US EPA staff, the Clark Group team made the scientific case for Houston County that allowed EPA to not designate the County.

Going beyond the solution necessary at the moment, the Clark Group team envisioned sustainability for Middle Georgia and Robins AFB by coordinating the formation of the Middle Georgia Clean Air Coalition (MGCAC).

Understanding that their response needed regional action, the seven counties of Middle Georgia committed to supporting the MGCAC to design a path to attainment. The regional link among these counties has been strong with respect to commerce and economy, but this is the first environmental issue the cities and counties have joined forces to address. It serves as a national model for how both designated and non-designated counties can work cooperatively toward a common goal.

Made up of County Commissioners and Mayors from Bibb, Houston, Monroe, Peach, Jones, Twiggs and Crawford, the Coalition has partnered with the Middle Georgia Clean Cities Coalition, Georgia Environmental Protection Division, Georgia Tech, Georgia Department of Transportation (GA DOT), and the Georgia Clean Air Campaign (GCAC).

The purpose of the MGCAC is to accept leadership responsibilities for clean air in the region and to develop strategies to reduce air pollution. Rather than wait until a State Implementation Plan is developed, the MGCAC identified six actions to immediately begin. They are:

  • Truck Stop Electrification
  • Open Burning Restrictions
  • Public Education and Awareness
  • Alternative fuels for school buses
  • Commuter Solutions

Lastly, The Clark Group is coordinating the development of a Strategy for the Future planning document. It is a comprehensive long-term plan to address regional air pollution to ensure that gains are not only achievable, but will remain for generations to come. The plan sets date-certain goals in the areas of smart growth, alternative fuel vehicles, renewable energy, and local government operations, maintenance, and procurement practices.( Editor note -The above was obtained through internet news sources. Although not a part of the Clark groups recommendation, keeping Oaky Woods in it's natural state would obviously help keep Houston County air cleaner and help reduce traffic congestion and reduce the risk of Houston County being placed on the EPD non- attainment list.Commission Chairman Ned Sanders has supported more green space in Houston County to improve air quality and keep Houston County off the EPD non- attainment list.)

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