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Finding Solutions To San Antonio's Air Quality Problems

Ryan Loyd
TPR News
The skies above Blanco, TX are part of the regional air quality concern local leaders are sorting out.

San Antonio's air quality is weighing on the minds of local leaders who think a plan of action needs to be taken now to reverse the trends of more polluted air.

This is why District 6 San Antonio City Councilman Ray Lopez has already created what's known as a council consideration request (CCR) to begin the process.

Lopez has received the support from four council members, including District 2 Councilwoman Ivy Taylor, District 4 Councilman Rey Saldaña, District 7 councilman Cris Medina, and District 8 Councilman Ron Nirenberg, to form a group to create a plan of action.

"That air quality plan really has to have components in it to talk about the things we have control over, which is obviously traffic here in this area, as well as how we're going to mitigate in the long term things we have little or no control over, like smoke from Mexico that comes up at us several months out of the year," Lopez said.

This week, council members gathered to talk about the issue. The meeting energized Peter Bella, who works with the Alamo Area Council of Governments as its natural resources director specializing in air quality.

Bella said San Antonio isn't the first place people would think has an air quality problem.

"Because typically it is so clean and beautiful blue skies," he said. "Ozone is colorless and odorless. You can't see it. It's out there and it represents a health risk when you breathe it."

Currently, Bella said, the region is actually exceeding federal standards on air quality. But because of a number of different reasons, the area isn't being sought out as a dirty air city by the federal government just yet.

Leaders have several years, possibly until 2017, to find a solution. But Bella believes solutions need to start being formed.

"We need to clean up our act," said Bella directly. "We need to make progress and get those numbers down. That's what air quality planning's all about."

Lopez said he thinks any group could be perceived as just another group that will be another bureaucratic step.

"But the reality [is], this is a required step going forward to keep our air quality at the levels we need it to be not only for compliance with the government, but also with health issues," Lopez said.

The group would be led by the San Antonio City Council and involve leaders from various organizations, from AACOG to Bexar County. The idea will be handled by the city's governance committee on whether it will form.