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San Antonio Getting State Help With Air Quality Plan

City of San Antonio

The state of Texas will be helping San Antonio meet air quality standards. During a city council committee meeting Wednesday, San Antonio's intergovernmental relations director, Jeff Coyle, told members that a plan will be drafted by the state to allow local leaders to choose how to best solve the region's air quality needs.

The state has agreed to do a draft a study for San Antonio to identify air quality solutions that local leaders can implement.

"The idea is they're going to give us a menu of choices, and at the local level we can make decisions about what of those solutions we want to choose off their menu," said Coyle following the meeting. "The point being though: they'll be scientifically based, there will be cost element to that and they're air quality experts, essentially, who will do the study and say, 'Given your needs in San Antonio and what the problems are, here's what we would recommend you consider.' "

Coyle thinks it will take about six months to draft the list so the city can then look at effective ways to stay in air quality attainment. Coyle said right now San Antonio is the only city in the nation's top 10 cities with the cleanest air. But he said there's hard work to do in the coming months. The federal air quality standard will likely be lowered, making it more difficult to remain in good standing.

In related news on air quality, this week the Alamo Area Council of Government's natural resources director, Peter Bella, announced that he is retiring from the agency immediately.

Bella has worked closely with AACOG and the city on providing communication of air quality needs and federal standards, as well as necessary background information. Bella did not elaborate on the reason for his sudden retirement, but said that he would be taking time off between now and October through accrued vacation time.

"It is with a certain regret that I relate to you that I am retiring from AACOG," said Bella in an email to colleagues and media members on Monday. He emphasized the need to continue to look at air quality issues.

"It has been important to me to serve in this capacity, and my 16 years in the natural resources department will, I hope, be seen as valuable to the community at large," Bella said. "I suppose it must be said, and I should say it: the need for dedicated action remains and, in fact, continues to grow. The importance of finding viable, durable solutions to our regional air pollution challenge, for the sake of ourselves and our children, and for their children, unmistakably remains."

Taking Bella's place on an interim basis will be Brenda Williams, a 15 year veteran of the department as a projects manager. She is focused on initiatives like the Clean Cities Coalition, Commute Solutions, and has done work in air quality outreach.