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6800 Burleson Road
Building 310, Suite 165
Austin, TX 78744

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Air Quality Improvement Initiatives

Regional air quality planning strategies play an important role in attaining and maintaining National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone. The CAPCOG Air Quality Program has been involved with providing technical assistance to area businesses, government entities, and community groups in developing regional plans and strategies.

The technical assistance provided by the air quality program is aimed at compiling and analyzing information that assists in the effort to gain a better understanding of the sources of ozone in Capital Area. Over the years, this has included operating air monitoring stations, estimating and modeling emissions, and developing regional planning strategies that include emissions reduction measures. The data that results from these air quality assessments is an important asset for the Capital Area and is vital to developing both local and state air quality plans for the region. Great strides have already been made in reducing concentrations of ground-level ozone, but much work remains to be done.

Regional Air Quality Initiatives

Ozone Advance 2012-13

The most recent air quality planning initiative the Austin area has undertaken is called the Ozone Advance Program (OAP). This program is very similar to the 8-O3 Flex Program but directed toward maintenance and attainment of the 2008 Ozone Standard of 75 parts per billion and toward further reducing ozone levels to improve the chances for areas to avoid a nonattainment designation for a new ozone standard EPA will finalize in 2013 or 2014. The program is designed to offer areas that are attaining the ozone NAAQS a structured planning process to help comply with the current and future ozone NAAQS, and to help the area potentially avoid being designated nonattainment. EPA announced the program in April 2012, and shortly after, the Clean Air Coalition decided to sign up for the program. With public outreach and review of recommended measures completed, the Clean Air Coalition has adopted a new Ozone Advance Action Plan to replace the region’s 8-hour Ozone Flex Plan expiring Dec. 31, 2013.

The Big Push, 2009

Following successful completion of the region's last air quality improvement plan, the Early Action Compact, the Austin-Round Rock Metropolitan Statistical Area's (MSA) regulatory air quality monitor showed that ground-level ozone levels had diminished enough for the area to be classified by EPA as in attainment of the 1997 eight-hour ozone standard of 84 parts per billion (ppb). The EPA then strengthened the standard to 75 ppb in 2008, putting the area at risk for being designated a nonattainment area for the new standard. In March 2009, the Governor recommended that Travis County be designated a nonattainment area based on a 2008 design value of 76 ppb. The EPA indicated that it would make its final decision on designations based on each area's monitoring data from the 2009 ozone season.

In response to this challenge, CAPCOG and other regional air quality partners put together a plan, known as the "Big Push," to maximize reductions of ozone-forming emissions this key ozone season (April 1 - Oct. 31, 2009) to bring the area's design value to 75 ppb. At the completion of the ozone monitoring season, the area's fourth highest 8-hour ozone measurement was low enough to bring the area's design value to 75 ppb.

Meanwhile, in September 2009, EPA announced that it would be reconsidering the 2008 standard and in January 2010, it published a proposal to lower the standard further to a range of 60-70 ppb while delaying any designations until the new lower standard was in place. While ultimately the 2009 design value did not turn out to be as critical in determining the region's designation as initially expected, the success of the Big Push in achieving its goal of attaining a design value of 75 ppb remains a model for other regions.

8-Hour O3 Flex 2008

The 8-Hour O3 Flex is the region's current air quality plan, and builds on the region's previous plans: the 1-hour O3 Flex Plan and the Early Action Compact. The 8-Hour O3 Flex Plan is a voluntary agreement between local governments within the MSA, the TCEQ, and EPA that allows local governments to implement measures to reduce ozone emissions in order to maintain compliance with the 1997 ozone NAAQS. The emissions reductions measures in the 8-Hour O3 Flex include, but are not limited to:

Voluntary initiatives, such as those outlined in the 8-Hour O3 Flex, have allowed the region to address ozone problems proactively rather than wait to address them through the prescribed federal nonattainment process. These initiatives have been instrumental in keeping the region in compliance with the 1997 ozone NAAQS. In addition, emission reduction measures can be used as "credit" towards any emission reduction measures required as part of any State Implementation Plan (SIP) required for the area should it be designated nonattainment for an ozone NAAQS in the future.

The 8-O3 Flex Program requires regular reporting to track the region's progress in attaining and maintaining the NAAQS and implementing ozone control measures. Here are the region's previous 8-O3 Flex Reports:

Early Action Compact 2004

In March 2004, the region adopted an Early Action Compact (EAC) to support maintenance of the 8-hour ozone standard. Emission reduction measures implemented for the EAC include a Vehicle Inspection and Maintenance Program, Heavy-Duty Vehicle Idling Restrictions, additional state rules, and a comprehensive collection of voluntary locally implemented measures. The region met the EAC objective of compliance with the 8-hour standard by December 31, 2007.

Additional information can be found on EAC Plans and EAC SIPs on the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's webpage.

1-Hour O3 Flex 2002

In 2002, elected officials from 12 jurisdictions in the Austin-Round Rock MSA, the TCEQ, and the EPA signed the 1-Hour Ozone Flex Plan for the region. The plan included commitments to emission reduction measures for the 2002 and 2003 ozone seasons, air quality monitoring, air dispersion or photochemical modeling, regular updates to the area's emission inventories, additional technical analysis, and implementation of contingency measures if violations of the 1-hour ozone standard occurred. The MOA remained in effect until December 31, 2007, and was superseded by the Clean Air Action Plan and EAC SIP later in 2002 and 2004.

Clean Air Coalition

Government officials and local stakeholders from counties in the Austin-Round Rock MSA participate in several regional air quality initiatives through their involvement with the Clean Air Coalition (CAC). The CAC is a voluntary, unincorporated association which became linked with CAPCOG by resolution in 2002. The CAC consist of elected officials from the A-RR MSA who are representatives of the governmental entities that agreed to participate in the Central Texas 8-hour O3 Flex Agreement (8-O3 Flex).

> Discover more about the Clean Air Coalition.

Future Planning Initiatives

As we look towards demonstrating compliance with the new federal ozone standard, access to air quality data will continue to be an important asset for the Capital Area. The ability to compile and analyze air quality data has been an effective tool in implementing air quality planning initiatives, and will continue to be used by stakeholders, elected officials, and air quality groups in determining compliance with the new ozone NAAQS.

> Back to Air Quality Home.