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The Source: San Antonio Air Quality Is On The Edge

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Chris Eudaily
/
TPR News

San Antonio has for years been the sole major Texas city in compliance with federal regulations on air quality. That could change soon, as the federal government is weighing dropping the threshold for ozone levels that would trigger automatic action, around 5 - 10 ppb. Ozone causes serious pulmonary issues and is found in industrial emissions as well as emissions from automobiles. 

Dallas and Houston both have programs that require higher quality gas be sold and cars have their emissions tested every year, regulations San Antonio has been able to avoid because of their attainment status. But there is more to the attainment- status label then meets the eye.

On many summer days, San Antonio's ozone level surpasses the Environmental Protection Agency mandated, or safe levels. Summer months and the interaction with the sun often activate properties in emissions to create ozone.  San Antonio is right on the edge of being federally compliant, but if it drops San Antonio will see a big fat non-attainment status come down, and all the automatic regulations that come with it.

Texas has been leading the country in ozone and other emissions that impact human health for years. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has been one of the chief critics of the EPA and Obama Administration's plan to lower the threshold of compliance on Ozone. In a recent statement they argued that their own studies have shown the current threshold of 75 ppb is sufficient and humans don't benefit from it being lowered. 

TCEQ declined to come on the program when we reached out to them on this topic, but sent the following statement.

Two recent studies showed that most states, not just Texas, are urging the EPA to retain the current 75 ppb ozone standards. The AAPCA (Association of Air Pollution Control Agencies) found that of 44 states that submitted written comments to the EPA, 26 states, 69% of those submitting comments, raised concerns about the achievability and/or implementation of the new standards or other issues. These concerns included questions ranging from the role of background ozone, to limitations on regulatory relief that would address background ozone. The House Energy and Commerce Committee also analyzed comments submitted to the EPA.  They found that 26 states support retention of the existing ozone standards. They also found that hundreds of National, State, and Multi-State Organizations also support the existing standard.

TCEQ has been criticized for not going far enough in the regulation of emissions, and siding with industry. According to a recent investigative piece by the Center for Public Integrity and National Geographic, TCEQ used the same organization to generate their reports that industrial lobbying agencies like the American Petroleum Institute.

Guests:

  • Brenda Williams, interim natural resources director at the Alamo Area Council of Governments
  • Jamie Smith Hopkins, investigative reporter for the Center for Public Integrity
Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org and on Twitter at @paulflahive