Clean air comes first

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Air pollution is nasty business. A friend who lives in Salt Lake City–where smog often gets trapped in the big valley where most of the urban area lies (a la Los Angeles)–says that cleaner air is the top reason she would consider leaving.On certain days there, residents are advised to stay indoors because of elevated ozone levels.

Charlottesville Tomorrow has a piece about how local planners are confronting the possibility of tighter federal scrutiny when new transportation projects hit the drawing board. If our air is found to be dirty enough, we’ll be subject to rules that say any new project has to actually improve air quality. This will, of course, slow down planning (would the Meadow Creek Parkway then take 60 years to build?). 

Such a status, for a locality, is called "non-attainment," a label our area may apparently earn within two years. Other non-attainment areas in Virginia currently are Richmond, Hampton Roads, Fredericksburg and the NoVa suburbs. Is anyone else sobered to learn how close we are to joining this club?

Doubtless the business community here will be unhappy at the prospect of further red tape. But this is the Clean Air Act, people–it’s kind of like the Smithsonian of environmental law. You gotta respect it. I, for one, will gladly wait longer for new roads if it meanscleaner air to breathe. I don’t want to be pushed to the brink of leaving home just for a decent lungful of oxygen. And I happen to believe that new roads eventually attract new traffic anyway.

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