Summer is over and so are the ozone alerts. About a dozen times this year, Tulsa city employee Chip Miller couldn't cut grass because it was an ozone alert day. He says he lost overtime, vacation days, and worked on Saturdays and Sundays, "There is only so much maintenance you can do,â€ said Miller. â€œYou get it all done, so they just tell you to go home and wait." He's not angry, though. He says keeping the air clean should be a high priority.
City leaders say in 1978, Tulsa was put on the Environmental Protection Agencyâ€™s so called "Dirty Air List." They say after an aggressive ozone alert program, Tulsa was taken off the list in 1990. Leaders say air quality is improving and they would have been a long way from being in violation if the old rules were still intact. However, in 1997, the E-P-A introduced stricter standards and Tulsa was in violation of those rules.
The E-P-Aâ€™s new standards were thrown out in a federal court battle and are now on appeal. So E-P-A officials told Mayor Susan Savage the city should now be following the old guidelines. Savage says although the E-P-A's regulations will be less stringent, keeping the air clean should still be a top priority. "Over the last ten years, we've demonstrated that we've acted in a voluntary way,â€ said Savage. â€œWe've taken steps to improve our air quality. We've been successful, don't penalize us."
Being placed on the E-P-Aâ€™s dirty air list could have meant heavy restrictions placed on cars and gas stations. Tulsa city leaders and Nancy Graham, Tulsaâ€™s air quality coordinator, say thereâ€™s still a chance the E-P-A's new standards will prevail. So the city will still be pushing ozone alert days. â€œWe were very successful, because people still cared, even with so many alert days," said Graham.
Savage expects to see the new ozone standards end up before the Supreme Court, where justices might look for some kind of compromise.