SEQL was an outgrowth of the Regional Environmental Initiative begun by the City of Charlotte in 2001; Centralina served as contractor for the project. When in late 2002, a menu of 25 environmental actions had been selected by the chief elected officials of communities surrounding Charlotte, Centralina entered into a cooperative agreement with US EPA (and in partnership with Catawba Regional Council of Governments) to expand geographic coverage, implement those actions and develop additional measures that would ensure environmental quality in the face of rapid growth. That project was known as SEQL, and was supported over three years by over $859,000 in EPA funds, matched by approximately $220,000 in local funds and in‐kind contributions.
In SEQL’s active years from 2003 through 2006, the project achieved the following results:
- Over 800 cumulative actions impacting air quality, water quality, and sustainable growth were implemented by 85 jurisdictions
- Over $600,000 came into the region in the form of implementation funding or in-kind technical assistance, not including the funding that SEQL staff helped individual jurisdictions obtain for projects such as pedestrian planning, etc.
- Specific programs were put in place that have been maintained by jurisdictions, such as Concord’s idle‐reduction programs, and ongoing school bus retrofits and diesel repowers, and new programs were begun even as SEQL began to wind down, such as the Regional Stormwater Partnership.
- Spin‐off programs were launched, including the “Clear the Air for Kids!” program that made available air quality information to 163,924 elementary students and their parents and provided information to middle and high schools with 173,742 students and placed 1,392 signs at the 495 public elementary, middle, and high school in 15 school districts across 11 counties. Contacts continue with charter and private schools to distribute information and signs.
- 15 new Action Items were developed, bringing the total to 40.
- CONNECT’s Phase I was launched as the basis for development of a regional vision.
Although EPA’s active involvement in SEQL ended in late 2006, SEQL’s air quality emphasis has continued. Centralina staff continues to promote and assist with grant funding opportunities, provide “Enviroflash” updates to regional partners during Ozone Season, and support schools with idle‐reduction signage, informational materials, and connections to resources. The SEQL website, with updated actions, will migrate to Centralina’s new website, and plans are underway to re‐survey jurisdictions regarding their continued or additional implementation of SEQL actions, all of which are still relevant. SEQL’s last activity was a survey of virtually all local government adopted comprehensive or land use plans, Long Range Transportation Plans, other visioning documents, community‐based visions, adopted non‐profit plans related to growth, and state documents pertaining to the future of the region. This was done to surface whether or not sufficient policy alignment existed among jurisdictions to allow the region to begin work on a shared regional vision, to provide a policy framework for SEQL‐type activities and future growth planning. This work, conducted by ACP Planning and Visioning, LLP, produced an extensive set of shared policies and values that became the foundation for CONNECT.