Last week, San Antonio officials promised that the White House's plan to pause air quality regulations wouldn't derail the city's work to improve its subpar air quality. But on Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott made that goal even further out of reach by cutting $6 million in clean air program funds from the state budget.
In the written explanation with his line-item veto, Abbott said he opposed supporting these types of programs (like air pollution monitoring or bike and carpool promotion) because they can be funded at the local government level — and the funds aren't going toward regions with severe air pollution (or "non-attainment areas"). This new cut comes on the heels of an April state legislature vote to move $20 million in funds
from the state's air quality program to a pro-life "Alternatives to Abortion" program in April.
"[Resources] should be prioritized to directly address problems in our non-attainment areas of the state so that we are better positioned to combat the business-stifling regulations imposed on these areas by the Environmental Protection Agency," Abbott writes.
According to Abbott, San Antonio, El Paso and other major Texas metro areas are only "near
non-attainment areas," despite the fact that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality officials recommend the Governor list these cities as "non-attainment"
areas in late 2016.
Of course, that was before the Trump Administration set up shop in D.C., bringing with it considerable rollbacks to the country's environmental protection programs. Just last week, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt — known for his disbelief in man-made climate change — announced a year
delay to air quality goals made by President Obama in 2015. Cities will now have until 2018 to lower the amount of ozone in its air from 75 parts per billion to 70 parts per billion.
Following this news, San Antonio officials pledged this delay wouldn't affect any of their current goals to improve the city's poor air quality. They're still on track to meet Obama's standards (which City Council backed in 2016) this year — even through the local air quality currently contains around 73 ppb. This commitment clashes with other major Texas cities, like Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston, which have not met these crucial standards and seem to have no interest in improving them, according to Texas Tribune's reporting.
But Abbott's hefty cut to air quality budget could throw this plan off course. According to city spokeswoman Alex Rubio, the organization tasked with air quality monitoring, Alamo Area Council of Governments, relies on approximately $1.4 million of the $6 million Abbott slashed Monday.
"We are very disappointed and surprised by the Governor's veto of these critical funds,” said AACOG Director Diane Rath. She wouldn't comment on how these cuts will specifically hurt the region's plan, but hinted at their potential to derail the local program.
“San Antonio is the largest city in the country not declared in violation of federal air quality standards and this funding has allowed us to continue the planning and work so necessary for the economic vitality of the Alamo region.”