Alabama Power and Southern Company employees to become "Nozoners"

BIRMINGHAM - While soccer teams go for the gold in Birmingham this month, Alabama Power and Southern Company employees will go for the green -- in effort to keep Birmingham out of the red.

Alabama Power`s Nozoner program is designed to encourage the company`s downtown Birmingham employees to carpool and have their vehicles` emissions checked. This initiative is part of a citywide effort to reduce ground-level ozone in Jefferson and Shelby Counties during the Olympic Soccer Matches.

Willard Bowers, Alabama Power`s Environmental Affairs manager, says that while upper-atmosphere ozone acts as a protective filter from the sun`s harmful ultraviolet rays, ground-level ozone can cause or contribute to respiratory problems.

"Our goal is to say `no` to this kind of ozone -- we want to be `Nozoners,`" Bowers says.

During the summer months, ground-level ozone can reach unhealthy levels in Birmingham, creating serious environmental concerns.

"Combining hot, stagnant weather conditions with increases in vehicle emissions associated with Olympic Soccer might easily put the area in a `Code Red` ozone alert," Bowers says.

Incentives for employees to participate in the Nozoner program include free emissions testing, T-shirts, special parking areas in the company parking decks and the possibility of earning two months of free parking.

After the Olympics, Alabama Power will review the Nozoner program to possibly adapt and expand it into a long-term project to help reduce harmful ozone levels in the state.

"We`re committed to doing our part to minimize this risk," Bowers says.