SAN ANTONIO – Time is running out for Bexar County’s efforts to avoid new air quality regulations. Friday marks three years since the EPA said the county’s ozone levels are too high.
âWe had a marginal classification which is the lowest of the five classification levels,â said Lyle Hufstetler, natural resources project coordinator with the Alamo Regional Council of Governments (AACOG). âWith that level of classification, it set off a three-year clock for us to reduce our ozone levels to their level. Unfortunately, that deadline is two days from today, and we’re not going to meet that threshold. “
Changing from marginal to moderate designation results in further restrictions. In the coming years, drivers in Bexar County will join others in the state in being required to have their vehicles tested for emissions during annual vehicle inspections.
âYou have to show up for your annual safety inspections, and it costs $ 7 and takes maybe 15 minutes depending on crowds,â Hufstetler said. âBut with the addition of emissions inspection, on top of that, we’re looking at an additional cost for this process. We are currently looking at around $ 18.50 for each inspection.
Bexar County would have four years to implement the tests, following an official designation, which Hufstetler says will take place early next year. Bexar County would join other large counties in the state, such as Dallas and Harris, which have been performing emissions testing for some time.
The air quality in the area had been a net positive, according to AACOG. Officials said this was a factor that led Toyota to choose San Antonio for its new facility over cities like Dallas and Houston. Now, companies wishing to relocate or expand to the city of Alamo will face a tougher review of plans on how to offset and reduce any new emissions their expansion may bring.
âIt’s so important that we really make an effort to get back to normal so that we can continue to attract these businesses to Bexar County,â Hufstetler said.
The region’s explosive growth has contributed to a recent surge in ozone levels. Even still, they are much lower than they were in the 90s, and federal standards have become stricter.
At high concentrations, ground-level ozone can cause pain decreased lung function with deep breaths and worsened asthma symptoms, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
“However, these effects would be rare at concentrations typically measured in the San Antonio area,” TCEQ wrote in a statement. âIn addition, ozone concentrations in San Antonio are not increasing and, in fact, the regulatory ozone level has decreased by 16% between 2000 and 2020.â
The TCEQ said the state should also submit updated plans to the EPA, and additional measures may be needed to help the region comply with the Clean Air Act.
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