Today the Environmental Protection Agency announced new air quality standards, which will likely usher San Antonio into non-compliance — possibly triggering new mandatory rules, like vehicle emissions testing.
The previous standard was 75 parts per billion, but ground-level ozone standards are now set at 70 parts per billion, a move by the EPA that was anticipated.
Brenda Williams, natural resources director for the Alamo Area Council of Governments (AACOG), said San Antonio, which has been out of compliance for three years, has relied on voluntary efforts to improve air, but the business community need to steps it up.
"While our government partners have resolved to work in a concerted effort to address our air quality challenge, it is AACOG’s hope that every business in the area, however large or small, will also take steps to help improve the air, whether it be by allowing more flexible scheduling for employees to avoid peak traffic times or by making their offices, shops, or other facilities more energy efficient,” she says in a news release.
San Antonio will know whether the EPA deems it "noncompliant" by 2017, in all likelihood, at the end of a three-year evaluation period that began in 2014. If the city is listed as noncompliant, mandatory measures to improve air quality will be imposed, which could trigger everything from requiring manufacturers to secure pollution reductions to offset proposed growth to transportation planners having to prove that adding roadway capacity would not increase pollution to mandatory vehicle emissions inspections.
Mayor Ivy Taylor said the city will work with AACOG and regional partners to create an action plan.
“San Antonio has grown in an unsustainable way and now we must take aggressive action to maintain our position as the largest clean air city in the nation,” Taylor says in a news release. “We will take quick action, challenge our regional partners and present an action plan before the EPA determines its dirty air designations. San Antonio is prepared to maintain our economic competitiveness while improving the health of our citizens."
District 8 Councilman Ron Nirenberg says early action must be taken. He favors electrifying city-owned vehicles, adopting anti-idling regulations and enforcing air quality improvements related to train operations.
“The best legacy we can leave is that we have fought this fight so our children don’t suffer the consequences of continued inaction,” Nirenberg says in a press release.
The new standards were adopted because of evidence that indicates ozone pollution is has a negative impact on public health, including being associated with bronchitis, respiratory failure and asthma.