In 2016, our metro area had more days of shitty air quality than Texas' oil and refining centers of Houston, Corpus Christi and Beaumont-Port Arthur, according to new research from environmental groups.
The Alamo City racked up 28 days with elevated ozone levels that year, compared to Houston's 23, Corpus' 16 and Beaumont's 19, according to the report Trouble in the Air: Millions of Americans Breathe Polluted Air. S.A. was also the Texas metro area with the 8th-highest number high-ozone days; El Paso topped the list with 45.
"Texas has a history of serious air pollution problems in its large urban centers due to millions of vehicles and the largest number of industrial plants in the nation...,” Neil Carman, clean air program director for the Sierra Club's Lone Star Chapter, said in a written statement. “Texas elected officials need to take action to clean up industrial emissions and polluting vehicles."
To assemble the report, Environment Texas, Frontier Group and TexPIRG Education Fund sifted through Environmental Protection Agency air quality data from 2016, the most recent year available.
Beyond meaning you're not supposed to fire up the ol' barbecue pit, days with elevated ozone levels put residents at higher risk for premature death, asthma attacks and other health problems. Not fun stuff.
The state's biggest source of smog-forming nitrogen oxides — 48 percent, to be exact — is mobile sources, mainly cars and trucks, according to the report. Another 20 percent comes from petroleum production and refining, 13 percent from factories and 9 percent from electricity generation.
The report comes as San Antonio teeters on the brink of violating federal air-quality standards. The EPA is expected to rule in July whether the city has finally tipped into "non-attainment" status, which would require a bevy of new regulations on polluters.
The report also comes at a time when the Trump administration mulls weakening federal clean car standards and as business-cozy EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced his agency will review the federal ozone standard. As Oklahoma attorney general, Pruitt once sued to stop those same standards from being imposed.
Stay on top of San Antonio news and views. Sign up for our Weekly Headlines Newsletter.