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In the News

Nonattainment designation for new ozone standard could cost Central Texas

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG) released a report that estimated that a “nonattainment” designation for the ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could cost Central Texas $24 - $42 billion over the next 30 years.

“This report shows that there are real economic consequences of an ozone nonattainment designation, and underscores that there are real economic benefits to taking voluntary action to reduce ozone levels in areas like Central Texas to avoid a nonattainment designation,” said Andrew Hoekzema, CAPCOG’s Air Quality Program Manager.

A nonattainment designation would mean added permitting requirements, extra hurdles for infrastructure development, and regulations on emissions of existing businesses within the region. CAPCOG’s new report estimates what the economic impact of these regulations could be if the region is designated nonattainment.

By Oct. 1, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required under a court order to finalize a new ozone NAAQS or retain the existing standard. Last year, the EPA proposed to reduce the level of the ozone NAAQS from 75 parts per billion (ppb) to a range of 65-70 ppb. Ozone levels in the Austin-Round Rock Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) — Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Travis, and Williamson counties — are currently at 68 ppb, putting it right in the middle of that range. If the EPA sets the standard at the lowest end of that range, it is likely that one or more counties in the Austin-Round Rock MSA will be designated a “nonattainment” area for the new NAAQS.

Since 2002, the Central Texas Clean Air Coalition (CAC) has led local efforts to remain in attainment of ground-level ozone standards. Through voluntary regional air quality planning efforts, local governments, businesses, and other organizations in the Austin-Round Rock MSA 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 have been critical to keeping the region designated attainment for the two previous ozone standards, and are likely to be important again in the area’s ability to remain designated in 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.

“We hope that this report can help motivate the Central Texas community to continue the good work it has been doing for over a decade to voluntarily reduce ozone-forming emissions,” Hoekzema said. “This will be especially important in 2016, since designations will likely be based on 2014-2016 ozone levels. We also hope that this report can serve as the starting point for discussions between our community and the EPA to find creative ways to work within the Clean Air Act to improve air quality without designating an area nonattainment unless absolutely necessary.”

> Read the full report.
> Discover the CAPCOG Air Quality Program.

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