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Officials warn that region may not meet federal air standards

Wednesday, April 2, 2008 by Austin Monitor

Local officials offered a warning on Tuesday that the region may have problems meeting the new federal clean-air standard adopted by the EPA. The announcement was timed to coincide with the beginning of ozone season in Central Texas, and included pleas from both Austin Mayor Will Wynn and State Sen. Kirk Watson for local residents to limit their driving and curtail their usage of electricity in an effort to minimize the amount of ground-level ozone in our atmosphere.

 

A list of ways to fight the production of ozone is available from the Clean Air Force of Central Texas, which organized Tuesday’s news conference at Austin City Hall. While Austin has managed to comply with the previous ozone standards despite its growing population, Clean Air Force Chairman Jim Marston said the new standard of 75 parts per billion would be a much more difficult target to reach.

 

“If we do not do more in Central Texas, we are going to be in violation of the federal health standard. That means our kids are breathing dirty air,” Marston said, “but it also means that we have significant potential impacts on our economy and our ability to grow.”

Watson warned that while the people of Central Texas were making progress toward improving air quality, outside forces could negate their efforts. “Recently, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality granted a permit to allow a coal-fired power plant to be built in such a way that it will put us out of compliance, even with all of the good, hard work that central Texans have put in,” he said. “Almost single-handedly, TCEQ has undercut the good pro-active steps that central Texans have taken in recent years to keep our air clean. TCEQ, as a partner, is going to have to do better.”

The TCEQ’s decision, combined with the EPA’s lowering of the acceptable levels of ozone, will force the region to take even more steps to comply with the federal clean-air standard. Wynn concluded the region would have to address both electricity consumption and driving habits.

 

“On the electricity side, we’re making great strides, mostly through the leadership of Austin Energy,” he said. “The big challenge for us in Central Texas is on the transportation side. We have to get our arms around the transportation piece of the emissions that are fouling Central Texans’ air.” That will include more car-pooling, increased use of mass transit, and driving more fuel-efficient vehicles.

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