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In the News

CAPCOG and AACOG air quality committees discuss regional issues

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Travis County Judge, Sarah Eckhardt, and San Antonio Council Member, Ron Nirenberg, lead the first ever joint-meeting between the Capital Area Clean Air Coalition and the Alamo Area Air Improvement Resources Executive Committee. The group discussed strategies to keep the two major metro areas within the EPA’s NAAQS.

CAPCOG’s Clean Air Coalition (CAC) and Alamo Area Council of Governments’ (AACOG’s) Air Improvement Resources (AIR) Executive Committee, the committees representing the two largest U.S. cities not currently burdened with an EPA air quality nonattainment designation, held their first-ever joint meeting to discuss strategies for keeping the cities and their metro areas in compliance with EPA’s new National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) on April 29. The committees consist of elected officials from city and county governments that participate in regional air quality planning efforts, and are chaired by Travis County Judge, Sarah Eckhardt, and San Antonio Council Member, Ron Nirenberg, respectively.

Eckhardt opened the meeting and recognized its significance noting, “a unified front on these issues is very powerful” and went on to lead the discussion joined by Nirenberg about the linkages between the two regions and the benefits of collaborating. San Marcos Mayor Daniel Guerrero added that his city is “squarely in between” the two regions and impacted by what happens in each of them, so the effort to work together is “monumental and historic.” Each region has proactively implemented measures to control air pollution, to create awareness of the issue, and to conduct air quality research and planning to guide future strategies that will prevent the EPA designation and the transportation and economic development challenges that accompany it. The joint committees unanimously approved a resolution directed to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and EPA seeking flexibility with implementing the 2015 Ozone NAAQS with regard to geographic area, type of classification, consideration of ozone measurement uncertainty as well as interstate and intrastate impacts.

The CAC and AIR Executive Committee each represent years of leadership in innovative regional air quality planning efforts. The CAC started in 2002 and has implemented four voluntary regional air quality plans, including the 1-Hour Ozone Flex Program in 2002, a Clean Air Action Plan and Early Action Compact State Implementation Plan (SIP) in 2004, the 8-Hour Ozone Flex Plan in 2008, and, most recently, an Ozone Advance Program Action Plan in 2013. The AIR Executive Committee was formed even earlier, in 1997, shortly after the state established the Near-Nonattainment Area grant program to support regional air quality planning efforts in areas that had ozone problems but had not yet been designated nonattainment. The AIR Executive Committee also adopted a Clean Air Action Plan and participated in an Early Action Compact SIP in 2004, and is also participating in EPA’s Ozone Advance Program. Both committees have had success in helping their respective metro areas narrowly avoid nonattainment designations for the 1997 and 2008 Ozone NAAQS, the 2015 Ozone NAAQS poses new challenges for the regions.

The committees agreed to start meeting twice a year in order to facilitate future collaboration and cooperation. The next meeting was set tentatively for November which will afford an opportunity to discuss legislative issues, including state funding for the Near Nonattainment planning work carried out by AACOG and CAPCOG.

> Find more information on CAPCOG’s Air Quality Program.
> Learn about the AACOG's Natural Resources Department.

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