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In the News

Central Texas likely to remain designated in ozone “attainment”

Thursday, October 01, 2015

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new ozone standard of 70 parts per billion (ppb) may not have a significant impact on Central Texas since the region’s air pollution levels will likely remain low enough to avoid a “nonattainment” designation. The new, more stringent health-based ozone standard, announced Oct. 1, 2015, tightens the National Ambient Air Quality Standard from 75 ppb to increase protections for human health and the environment. Peak ozone levels in Central Texas have averaged 68 ppb between 2013 and 2015. If the region’s ozone levels were above 70 ppb, it would be at risk for being designated nonattainment, which could cost $24 to $42 billion in economic losses for the region, according to a report by the Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG).

“Central Texas has been a national leader in voluntarily reducing ozone-forming emissions, and every resident of Central Texas can be proud of the success of the region’s efforts to keep the air clean and avoid the burdens of an ozone nonattainment designation,” Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt, who serves as the chair of the Central Texas Clean Air Coalition (CAC) said. “I encourage residents to continue these efforts in 2016 to help ensure that the region can remain designated attainment for this new ozone standard.”

Since 2002, the CAC has led local efforts to remain in attainment of ground-level ozone standards. Through these efforts, local governments, businesses, and other organizations in Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Travis, and Williamson counties have worked with the EPA and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to voluntarily reduce local ozone-forming emissions. As part of the region’s current air quality plan, 30 organizations have voluntarily implemented more than 500 emission reduction measures, and another 24 organizations participate through CLEAN AIR Force’s Clean Air Partners Program. These emission reductions were critical in keeping the region designated attainment for the two previous ozone standards, and will be important to remain designated attainment for the EPA’s new ozone standard. The EPA has recognized these local efforts by awarding Clean Air Excellence awards for Community Engagement to the Clean Air Coalition in 2014 and the CLEAN AIR Force of Central Texas in 2015.

Although the region’s current ozone levels are in compliance with the new standard, pollution levels can vary substantially year-to-year. Keeping ozone levels low in 2016 will be important to ensuring the region can avoid a nonattainment designation under the new standard.

Residents of Central Texas can help the region remain in compliance with the new air quality standard and improve public health protections by purchasing newer, cleaner vehicles; avoiding driving alone to work; and conserving energy. On “Ozone Action Days,” when meteorologists expect ozone levels to be particularly high, children, seniors, and people with respiratory problems should avoid prolonged exposure outdoors, and motorists should avoid idling and taking unnecessary trips.

> Discover more information on regional air quality in Central Texas.
> Read CAPCOG's fact sheet about EPA’s new ozone standard, and how it affects Central Texas.

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