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Austin, TX 78744

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In the News

Basic Peace Officer Course adds ALERRT training

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Capital Area Council of Governments Regional Law Enforcement Academy is adding 40 hours of active shooter training to its Basic Peace Officer Courses (BPOCs).

Cadets in the BPOC class 75, which began Jan. 5, will spend four days in an Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Level I and Level II courses. ALERRT will continue to be offered in future BPOCs.

The Level I course is designed to prepare cadets as first responders to isolate, distract, and neutralize an active shooter. The course curriculum includes weapon manipulation, threshold evaluation, concepts and principles of team movement and solo officer strategies, room entry techniques, approach and breaching the crisis site and much more.

During the Level II course, cadets will be trained in point-of-wound casualty care techniques to save lives. The cadets will learn tactical emergency combat care based in self-aid and buddy-aid techniques to include hemorrhage control and tourniquets, bandaging, airway management, triaging, casualty collection points, and casualty evacuation methods. “Force-on-force” mass casualty scenarios also will be taught. Cadets will have to neutralize a threat and treat the wounded, establish casualty collection points, conduct triage, and integrate responses with emergency medical personnel.

> Find a schedule of BPOCs and other law enforcement training.
> Discover the CAPCOG Regional Law Enforcement Academy.
> Learn more about the BPOCs.

CAPCOG will help with diesel vehicle replacement, repower grant applications

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

CAPCOG’s Air Quality Program is offering assistance to entities interested in applying for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s Texas Emission Reduction Plan (TERP) Rebate Grant Program.

The rebate grant program provides funding for replacement or repower projects of diesel on-road and certain non-road equipment and vehicles. It is a simplified application process under the Emissions Reduction Incentive Grant Program. The program process will open for applications on Feb. 9 and will be awarded on a first come, first serve basis.

The CAPCOG Air Quality Program will support local organizations and businesses with determining their eligibility for the grant and/or help with the completion of the application.

> Contact Linda Daubert, air quality program specialist, for assistance with the grant.

Part of the funds allocated to the rebate grant program will be set aside for applications from entities that qualify as a Small Business under the TERP Guidelines for Emissions Reduction Grants. Small and large businesses are encouraged to apply.

To qualify, vehicles and equipment must have 75 percent of their annual usage spent in Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Travis, Williamson, or 34 other Texas counties.

> Read more about the TERP Rebate Grant Program and download an application.
> Discover CAPCOG’s Air Quality Program.

CAPCOG offers two Criminal Justice Division grant workshops

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Capital Area Council of Governments Regional Service Division will conduct two mandatory workshops for the Office of the Governor’s Criminal Justice Division (CJD) grants in February.

Both mandatory workshops will focus on writing applications for the General Victim Assistance, Violent Crimes Against Women, General Juvenile Justice and Justice Assistance Grants. Those in attendance will be provided instructions on how to complete grant applications, how applications will be scored, and changes to the Capital Area Regional Strategic Criminal Justice Plan.

> Read the Regional Strategic Criminal Justice Plan.

Organizations seeking any of the four criminal justice grants must attend one of the workshops. The CJD will deem grant applications ineligible if the submitting organization failed to attend one of the mandatory workshops.

Workshop No. I: 1-4:30 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015 at the J.B. Hallie Jester Building located at 1801 Old Settlers Blvd., Round Rock, TX 78664 in the Harrell Room. Please note the seating capacity is 200.

Workshop No. II: 1-4:30 p.m., Tuesday, Feb.  10, 2015 at the CAPCOG offices located at 6800 Burleson Road, Building 310, Suite 165, Austin, TX 78744 in the Pecan Room.  Please note the seating capacity is 50.

> RSVP for the workshop or inquire about questions with Kate Barrett or Ken May.

CAPCOG facilitates the criminal justice grants solicitation and ranking and scoring of applications for the state 2016 funding year through an interlocal agreement with the Office of the Governor’s Criminal Justice Division. CAPCOG is assisted with the process by its Criminal Justice Advisory Committee.

The state posted the request for applications on Dec. 12, 2014, which is open until Feb. 27, 2015, when all applicants must have uploaded their applications to the CJD E-grants website.

> Read more about the Criminal Justice Division Program and its grant funding opportunities.

Counselors assist with 600 hours of Medicare open enrollment

Monday, January 12, 2015

Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area benefit counselors provided assistance to hundreds of Medicare beneficiaries’ during the federal program’s 53-day open enrollment period, Oct. 15 – Dec. 7.

During open enrollment, which allows people to change their health or prescription drug coverage, benefits counselors provided assistance based counseling on Medicare Part D plan searches and the application process.

The AAACAP Benefits Counseling Program provided assistance to 372 consumers offering almost 600 hours of assistance activities. Counselors helped about 29 percent more consumers and provided about 30 percent hours of assistance during the period compared to the 53 days before open enrollment started. About 266 consumers were provided with 420 hours of assistance during the 53 days before open enrollment began.

Benefit counselors continue to educate older adults, caregivers, family members and the general public about relevant information for eligibility and requirements for Medicare and other public programs. They travel throughout CAPCOG’s 10-county region educating consumers about making informed decisions related to Medicare, advance planning, preventing and identifying Medicare fraud, and other aging issues.

> Read more about AAACAP's benefits counseling program.
> Discover local opportunities to receive benefit counseling.
> Learn about AAACAP.

TCEQ announces workshops for TERP Rebate Grant

Tuesday, January 06, 2015
Source: Texas Commission of Environmental Quality

The Texas Commission of Environmental Quality will open the application process for 2015 Texas Emission Reduction Plan (TERP) Rebate Grant Program on Feb. 9, 2015. To the assist interested governments and organizations with the grant process, the state agency is offering four application workshops in January.

The rebate grant is a first-come, first-serve program to upgrade and replace diesel heavy-duty vehicles and non-road equipment. Vehicles and equipment must have 75 percent of their annual usage spent in Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Travis, Williamson, and/or 34 other Texas counties.

An Austin application workshop will be conducted at the following time and location:

1:30-4:30 p.m., Jan. 27, 2015
TCEQ's Austin Office
Building E, Room 201S (Agenda Room)
12100 Park 35 Circle
Austin, Texas 78753

> Read more about the TERP Rebate Grant Program.
> Discover CAPCOG’s Air Quality Program.

Other workshops will be at:

  • 1:30-4:30 p.m., Jan. 14, 2015
    North Central Texas Council of Governments
    616 Six Flags Drive
    Arlington, Texas 76011

  • 1:30-4:30 p.m., Jan. 22, 2015
    Alamo Area Council of Governments
    8700 Tesoro Drive, Suite 700
    San Antonio, Texas 78217-6228

  • 1:30-4:30 p.m., Jan. 29, 2015
    5:30-7:30 p.m. (en Español), Jan. 29, 2015
    Tracy Gee Community Center
    3599 Westcenter Drive
    Houston, Texas 77042

New Executive Committee meets January 14

Monday, January 05, 2015

CAPCOG’s 2015 Executive Committee will meet for the first time on Jan. 14 after being selected by the organization’s General Assembly Representatives in December.

The Executive Committee, which consists of 29 elected officials from throughout the region, serves on the board to conduct business for the council of governments and direct staff on program implementation, budgets, contracts and general policies and procedures for managing the agency. The governing committee meets once a month, generally on the second Wednesday of the month.

It also serves as the managing board for the Capital Area Emergency Communications District, which governs the region’s 9-1-1 systems.

Representing counties

  • Judge Paul Pape, Bastrop County
  • Judge Brett Bray, Blanco County
  • Judge James Oakley, Burnet County
  • Judge Ken Schawe, Caldwell County
  • Judge Ed Janecka, Fayette County
  • Judge Bert Cobb, Hays County
  • Commissioner Maurice Pitts, Lee County
  • Judge Mary Cunningham, Llano County
  • Judge Sarah Eckhardt, Travis County
  • Commissioner Gerald Daugherty, Travis County
  • Judge Dan A. Gattis, Williamson County

Representing the City of Austin

  • Council Member Kathie Tovo

Representing cities greater than 100,000

  • Mayor Alan McGraw, Round Rock

Representing cities with 25,000 to 100,000

  • Council Member Donald Tracy, Cedar Park
  • Council Member Kirsten Lynch, Leander
  • Mayor Jeff Coleman, Pflugerville
  • Mayor Daniel Guerrero, San Marcos

Representing cities with less than 25,000

  • Mayor Caroline Murphy, Bee Cave
  • Council Member Eileen Altmiller, Buda
  • Mayor Marc Holm, Elgin
  • Mayor Debbie Holland, Hutto
  • Mayor Lew White, Lockhart

At-large members

  • Commissioner Joe Don Dockery, Burnet County
  • Commissioner Will Conley, Hays County
  • Commissioner Cynthia Long, Williamson County

Legislators from State Planning Region 12 (nonvoting) 

  • State Rep. Jason Isaac
  • State Rep. Paul Workman
  • State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez
  • Senator Judith Zaffirini

> Discover more about the CAPCOG Executive Committee.
> Read the upcoming meeting's agenda.

EPA holds a Texas hearing on proposed smog standards

Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will hold one of three public hearings on the proposed updates to national air quality standards for ground-level ozone, or smog, in Arlington, Texas.

The EPA proposed to strengthen the standards to a level within a range of 65 to 70 parts per billion (ppb) to better protect Americans’ health and the environment, while taking comment on a level down to 60 ppb, stated the EPA. The agency estimates the benefits of meeting the proposed standards will outweigh the costs by preventing asthma attacks, heart attacks, missed school days, premature deaths, and other health effects.

A Texas public hearing about the standards will be conducted from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Jan. 29 at Arlington City Hall, 101 W. Abram St. in Arlington.

The public may register to speak at a specific time during a hearing by contacting Eloise Shepherd at 919-541-5507 or People also may register in person the day of the hearing. The EPA will accept written comments on the proposed standards until March 17, 2015. The agency will issue a final rule by Oct. 1, 2015.

> Find additional information on the proposal and instructions for submitting written comments.

Two other hearings will take place at the following local times and locations:

9 a.m.-7:30 p.m., Jan. 29
William Jefferson Clinton East building, Room 1153
1301 Constitution Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20460

9 a.m.-7:30 p.m., Feb. 2
Sacramento, Calif.
California Air Resources Board
Byron Sher Auditorium
1001 “I” St.
Sacramento, CA 95814

> Read more about CAPCOG’S Air Quality Program.
> Discover the Clean Air Coalition.

Mass fatality plan to benefit response and training

Friday, December 26, 2014

Educating area governments and emergency response teams on how to respond to mass fatality incidents has been priority for the Capital Area Council of Governments Homeland Security Division for years. Entities in the region have participated in a number of training sessions, hosted national recognized trainers on the subject, and focused several planning initiatives on the topic.

In the summer of 2014, CAPCOG received a grant to develop a mass fatality plan so it could provide local jurisdictions with assistance in improving the responses to such incidents throughout its 10-county region. The plan is still under development, but CAPCOG Homeland Security Director Ed Schaefer and Homeland Security Planner Carolyn Sudduth answered questions about why creating a mass fatality plan is important.

What constitutes a mass fatality incident?
Simply stated, a mass fatality incident is any incident resulting in more fatalities than can be managed by a local jurisdiction using its own available resources. Because the level of available resources varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, an incident that would be a “mass fatality incident” in one jurisdiction might not reach that threshold in another.

Mass fatality incidents can result from natural causes, such as tornadoes or pandemic influenza; or have man-made origins, such as the crash of an airliner or an explosion of hazardous chemicals. Mass fatality incidents are sometimes referred to as “mass casualty incidents” but, for planning purposes, mass casualty incidents focus on the need to manage surviving victims while mass fatality incidents focus on the need to manage victims who did not survive. Sometimes, an incident can be both a mass casualty incident and a mass fatality incident.

These types of incidents require multiple agencies and communities coordinate with each other.

Why do governments need to have a mass fatality response plan? And how can the plans help them prepare for a mass fatality incident?
State and federal law require governments at all levels be prepared to respond to emergencies of all types and all degrees of severity, including those that reach the level of a mass fatality incident. Such incidents can occur with little or no warning, as shown by the May 27, 1997 tornado that killed 27 people in Jarrell in Williamson County.

When such incidents have occurred, local officials have used the principles and processes in their jurisdictions’ emergency management plans to guide their response. Development of a mass fatality response plan prior to such an occurrence allows them to focus on the unique issues associated with mass fatality incidents before, not during, the response to such an incident.

Pre-planning provides the opportunity to identify and arrange for needed resources, develop processes and procedures, and train government and private-sector personnel in their roles and responsibilities when such an incident occurs.

What are some of the downfalls of incorrectly handling mass fatality incidents?
A response to a mass fatality incident has several components, including recovery of bodies, processing and final disposition of the remains, and assistance to the families of the deceased. These activities take place in an emotionally charged, highly visible environment that elevates the consequences of failure to follow the requirements of the law or to be sensitive to the needs of the survivors. Any missteps can subject local officials to legal action, negative publicity or both. Every component needs to be handled with a degree of precision, sensitivity and dignity.

How does a mass fatality response plan relate to other homeland security plans and how can it be integrated into those plans?
All jurisdictions are required to develop comprehensive, all-hazard emergency management plans. Such plans outline how local jurisdictions will work with other organizations, including non-governmental organizations and state and federal agencies to provide an effective, coordinated response. Mass fatality response planning is integrated into a broad array of emergency management, law enforcement and public health planning processes. This planning provides the basis for the training and exercise that facilitate such a response.

How will jurisdictions be able to use the developed plan after it is finished? And how can further help those jurisdictions prepare?
CAPCOG is taking a two-pronged approach to mass fatality response planning. The most visible product of this effort will be written plans, guidelines and templates that can be modified by local jurisdictions to meet their particular needs. More important, however, is the opportunity to engage in a process of identifying the issues that will be encountered in a response to a mass fatality incident and to work with other personnel to formulate approaches to dealing with those issues. Our approach focuses on incorporating the unique considerations of mass fatality response into the jurisdiction’s incident command structure, including ensuring that medico-legal authorities continue their statutory oversight of fatality incidents, and incorporating the application of “best practices” to the mass fatality response.

> Discover more about CAPCOG's Homeland Security Divison.

Travis County Judge receives CAPCOG regionalism award

Friday, December 19, 2014

Travis County Judge Samuel T. Biscoe received the Jack Griesenbeck Award from the Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG) honoring his longtime dedication to regionalism and service to CAPCOG’s 10-county district.

Named after Bastrop County Judge Jack Griesenbeck, who was CAPCOG’s first chairman, the award recognizes a person who consistently advocates a regional and multijurisdictional approach through their work with local governments, nonprofits and other organization.

Biscoe has done that by serving numerous years on the CAPCOG Executive Committee and serving as the Central Texas Clean Air Coalition’s chairman for the last five years. Biscoe has led the coalition and its other elected officials by consistently addressing issues through a regional lens which is necessary for air quality. With Biscoe’s leadership, the cities and counties have worked hard together taking fairly vigorous actions to keep the region out of the Environmental Protection Agency’s nonattainment air quality status.

Biscoe has been a part of the CAPCOG Executive Committee since he was first elected as a Travis County Commissioner in 1989. He served as the CAPCOG Executive Committee chairman and became the Clean Air Coalition chairman in 2009.

Through his work with both CAPCOG committees, Biscoe has more than proved a commitment to regionalism.

CAPCOG has honored individuals with this award for more than 10 years.

CAPCOG Executive Director Betty Voights presents Travis County Judge Samuel T. Biscoe with CAPCOG's Jack Griesenbeck Award. 

> Read about the previous Jack Griesenbeck Award winner.
> Find out more about the CAPCOG Executive Committee.
> Discover the Central Texas Clean Air Coalition.

Hays County Commissioner honored for service to transportation

Friday, December 19, 2014

Hays County Commissioner, Will Conley, received the Texas Department of Transportation Road Hand award, a prestigious tradition acknowledging those who have made improvements to transportation in their communities.

Commissioner Conley has been a major player in planning viable transportation projects in the region. He has made a difference by serving as chairman on the Capitol Area Regional Transportation Planning Organization and the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, as well as through his work in Hays County to make safety improvements to roadways and establish transportation plans to prevent future traffic congestion.

“Commissioner Conley, along with other leaders in Hays County, faces the challenge of planning transportation in one of the fastest growing counties in the state,” said Greg Malatek, Austin District Engineer. “He has devoted time and effort to improving TxDOT and the way the agency does business. His enthusiasm, leadership, and dedicated public service are invaluable and appreciated.”

The Road Hand Award was created in 1973 by former State Highway Engineer Luther DeBerry. He recognized that TxDOT owes a great deal to its many friends and supporters for their efforts to make the Texas highway program the best in the world. The award is the highest tribute to citizens who freely give their time, energy, and vision to champion transportation projects in Texas.

“It was a surprise and honor to receive the State's highest recognition for a local official in transportation,” Conley said. “Thank you to the citizens of Precinct 3, Hays County Commissioner's Court, and my colleagues across the region for giving me the opportunity to work on this important issue for our community and State.”

> Discover more on the Capital Area Regional Transportation Planning Organization.

Law enforcement academy teaches a lifelong career

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Thanks to funding from the Office of the Governor’s Criminal Justice Division, the Capital Area Council of Governments Regional Law Enforcement Academy operates one of the area’s most affordable education opportunities for people looking for a lifelong career in law enforcement.

Last year, CAPCOG conducted five basic peace officers courses (BPOCs) graduating 92 cadets which joined law enforcement agencies around the region. Those same agencies and ones outside the region often recruit the BPOC’s cadets during the course. Two courses are underway and a third will start in January.

> Find a schedule of future BPOCs and additional training opportunities.

For $2,300, prospective officers can enroll in a BPOC. Law enforcement agencies in the region can sponsor cadets for a discounted rate of $1,900. Military veterans also can qualify for Chapter 30, Montgomery GI Bill benefits, and Chapter 33, Post 911 GI Bill benefits. Veterans who plan to use the Post-9/11 or Montgomery GI Bill must submit a certificate of eligibility from the VA, Muskogee, Okla. Office, stating the percent of tuition that will be paid. If it is less than 100 percent, the student will pay the remainder.

> Read more about CAPCOG's Regional Law Enforcement Academy.

GeoMap program improves orthoimagery resolution

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Capital Area Council of Governments GIS Program’s GeoMap, a cooperative buying program, is coordinating the purchase of orthoimagery with 12 participating local entities that include counties, municipalities and the Capital Area Emergency Communications District in 2015.

For the first time ever, the entire 10-county region — more than 8,800 square miles — will be captured in 12-inch or 6-inch resolution. CAPCOG GIS is working to make the data available by county mosaics and ultimately the entire region in one file.

The GIS program provides mapping, GIS consulting, spatial analysis to CAPCOG divisions, member governments and the public. Its most prominent service is maintaining and publishing digital maps for 9-1-1 telecommunicators and dispatchers. In FY 2015, CAPCOG GIS is continuing the  implementation of new data layers for Next Generation 9-1-1 geospatial data, database maintenance, regional support and training.

> Contact Jonathan Pattiwael, CAPCOG GIS analyst II.
> Read more about CAPCOG's GIS program.

CAPCOG honors Parmer with volunteer award

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Capital Area Council of Governments recognized Phill Parmer, of Llano, with its first volunteer service award on Dec. 10. Parmer, 94, is the longest serving Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area volunteer.

He has dedicated more than 19 years to assisting with the care of older adults throughout CAPCOG’s 10-county region. Since 1995, Parmer has participated as a CAPCOG Aging Advisory Committee member. He served as a past committee chair and held every position on the board. He has conducted numerous focus groups in Llano County to help identify and strategize to meet those needs of seniors in the capital region.

Palmer has dedicated an enormous amount of time on the aging evaluation committee by visiting senior centers and nutrition meal sites to conduct contract on-site monitoring each year. Annually, he also assisted scoring applications from outside entities to provide home delivered and congregate meal programs.

In 1996, Parmer became a Certified Ombudsman. As a volunteer ombudsman, he has visited and advocated for seniors and their families monthly and weekly by visiting nursing homes and assisted-living centers in Llano and surrounding cities. He continues to be an active ombudsman but resigned from the Aging Advisory Committee earlier this year because of health reasons.

Parmer also was elected to the Texas Silver Haired Legislature from 1992-1996, where he advocated and spearheaded legislative initiatives related to senior issues.

Phill Parmer, 94 of Llano, accepts the CAPCOG Volunteer Service Award from Llano County Judge and CAPCOG Executive Committee Chairman Wayne Brascom during CAPCOG's Dec. 10 General Assembly Meeting.

> Read more about the Area Agency on Aging.
> Discover the Area Agency on Aging ombudsman program.

Llano transportation & economic development plan begins

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Llano County Commissioners’ Court hosted CAPCOG on Nov. 24 to announce support for a 2015 countywide transportation and economic development plan.

The effort, funded by the Texas Department of Transportation, will pick up steam in early 2015 as the county nominates advisory committees from public and private sectors. TxDOT and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute started researching traffic patterns and future trends. CAPCOG will combine their research with economic and demographic info to create a data-driven plan for the future county growth.

Counties outside Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s jurisdiction can use comprehensive prioritization of transportation projects to get the most from out-of-state and federal funding sources and to preserve right-of-way corridors.

The upcoming planning process will include surveys, stakeholder work sessions, and several public meetings to ensure the plan represents Llano County residents.

> Contact Chad Coburn, CAPCOG manager of community development and planning, for more information.
> Read more about CAPCOG's Community and Economic Development Program.

CAPCOG offers basic telecommunicators course

Monday, December 08, 2014

The Capital Area Council of Governments offered its first 40 Hour Basic Telecommunicator Licensing Course from Nov. 10 to Nov. 14, 2014 helping 19 9-1-1 operators meet a new state requirement. Additional courses will be available throughout the 2015 fiscal year.

The Basic Telecommunicator Licensing Course is now a required course by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) that emergency telecommunicators must complete within their first year of hire.

The 40 hour course is designed to provide a beginning telecommunicator with an understanding of situations encountered in an emergency communications environment. Course content includes training such as radio dispatching, call taking, call classification, emergency and non-emergency situations, liability and legal issues and stress management.

The 19 students in attendance were from Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) throughout the CAPCOG region and other outside agencies. They all passed the final exam with a required score of 85 or higher. The course is offered to CAPCOG’s regional PSAPs at no charge.

> Find future training courses.
> Learn more about the CAPCOG Emergency Communications Division.
> Contact Kelsey Dean, CAPCOG PSAP specialist.

TCEQ extends emission reduction grant opportunity

Friday, December 05, 2014

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) extended the grant application process for its Emissions Reduction Incentive Grant Program.

Applications now will be accepted until 5 p.m., Dec. 16, 2014.

> Apply for the grant on the Texas Emission Reduction Plan website.

The grant encourages entities to upgrade or replace heavy-duty on-road vehicles or non-road equipment, equipment, locomotives, marine vessels, stationary equipment, refueling infrastructure, on-site electrification and idle reduction infrastructure, on-vehicle electrification and idle reduction infrastructure, and rail relocation and improvement projects in Texas.

Entities that operate or plan to operate such vehicles and equipment in the nonattainment areas and other areas of Texas, to include the Austin area, are eligible for the grant.

> Discover more air quality grant opportunities.
> Read about the Capital Area Council of Governments’ Air Quality Program.

Proposed Ozone Standards Pose a Challenge for Central Texas

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Proposed new national ground-level ozone standards put Central Texas at risk of being designated a “nonattainment” area by 2017. However, ongoing regional air quality planning efforts could make the difference in preserving the region’s attainment status. On Nov. 26, 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed tightening the “primary” ozone standard from 75 parts per billion (ppb) to between 65-70 ppb to protect public health and welfare. Ozone levels in Central Texas are currently within the range proposed by EPA for the standards.

While ozone levels in the Austin-Round Rock Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) — Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Travis and Williamson counties — continue to improve, progress may not occur quickly enough to remain in compliance under the proposed standards. If EPA sets the new primary ozone standard at the lowest end of its proposed range –65 ppb – current projections indicate that continuing and strengthening the region’s emission reduction program will be necessary to stay in attainment.

If EPA designates Central Texas “nonattainment” for ground-level ozone, which might occur by October 2017, there could be significant economic impacts for the region. New regulations could restrict industrial expansion, delay funding for roadway construction, and increase the cost of doing business throughout the region. The regulatory consequences of a nonattainment designation could last for 25-40 years.

Ongoing regional air quality planning efforts are led by the Central Texas Clean Air Coalition (CAC), which consists of local elected officials from all five counties in the Austin-Round Rock MSA. They have developed a series of voluntary emission reduction plans that have helped the region remain in attainment of EPA’s air quality standards following the last two revisions to the ground-level ozone standards.

These nationally-recognized efforts are supported by local businesses, government entities, and nonprofit organizations, as well as state programs designed to reduce local emissions. Regarding the challenge the region may face addressing the proposed standards, CAC Chair and outgoing Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe said, “Central Texans should be very proud of the efforts our region has successfully pursued, and will continue to pursue, in order to stay in attainment of national ozone standards. Continued collaboration will help ensure the best possible protection for public health and protection against costs arising from a possible nonattainment designation.” The region’s planning efforts earned the CAC the EPA’s Clean Air Excellence Award for Community Engagement in 2014.

High ozone levels can cause breathing problems, particularly for children, seniors, and people who suffer from chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma. High ozone can also cause damage to plants and reduce growth rates for vegetation. Many countries have set ozone standards similar to what EPA has proposed, although implementation methods vary. For comparison, Canada has set its ozone standard at 65 ppb; the European Union ozone standard is 60 ppb; the United Kingdom has an ozone standard of 50 ppb.

> Discover more about the region's air quality.
Download CAPCOG's - EPA Ozone Standard Fact Sheet.

EPA announces proposed air quality standards

Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Source: The Environmental Protection Agency

WASHINGTON – Based on extensive recent scientific evidence about the harmful effects of ground-level ozone, or smog, the Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to strengthen air quality standards within a range of 65 to 70 parts per billion (ppb) to better protect Americans’ health and the environment, while taking comment on a level as low as 60 ppb. The Clean Air Act requires EPA to review the standards every five years by following a set of open, transparent steps and considering the advice of a panel of independent experts. EPA last updated these standards in 2008, setting them at 75 ppb.

"Bringing ozone pollution standards in line with the latest science will clean up our air, improve access to crucial air quality information, and protect those most at-risk. It empowers the American people with updated air quality information to protect our loved ones - because whether we work or play outdoors – we deserve to know the air we breathe is safe,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “Fulfilling the promise of the Clean Air Act has always been EPA’s responsibility. Our health protections have endured because they’re engineered to evolve, so that’s why we’re using the latest science to update air quality standards – to fulfill the law’s promise, and defend each and every person’s right to clean air.”

EPA scientists examined numerous scientific studies in its most recent review of the ozone standards, including more than 1,000 new studies published since the last update. Studies indicate that exposure to ozone at levels below 75 ppb – the level of the current standard – can pose serious threats to public health, harm the respiratory system, cause or aggravate asthma and other lung diseases, and is linked to premature death from respiratory and cardiovascular causes.

Ground-level ozone forms in the atmosphere when emissions of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds “cook” in the sun from sources like cars, trucks, buses, industries, power plants and certain fumes from fuels, solvents and paints. People most at risk from breathing air containing ozone include people with asthma, children, older adults, and those who are active or work outside. Stronger ozone standards also will provide an added measure of protection for low income and minority families who are more likely to suffer from asthma or to live in communities overburdened by pollution. Nationally, 1 in 10 children has been diagnosed with asthma.

According to EPA’s analysis, strengthening the standard to a range of 65 to 70 ppb will provide significantly better protection for children, preventing from 320,000 to 960,000 asthma attacks and from 330,000 to 1 million missed school days. The new standard also could prevent more than 750 to 4,300 premature deaths; 1,400 to 4,300 asthma-related emergency room visits; and 65,000 to 180,000 missed workdays.

EPA estimates the benefits of meeting the proposed standards will significantly outweigh the costs.  If the standards are finalized, every dollar we invest to meet them will return up to three dollars in health benefits. These large health benefits will be gained from avoiding asthma attacks, heart attacks, missed school days and premature deaths, among other health effects valued at $6.4 to $13 billion annually in 2025 for a standard of 70 ppb, and $19 to $38 billion annually in 2025 for a standard of 65 ppb.  Annual costs are estimated at $3.9 billion in 2025 for a standard of 70 ppb, and $15 billion for a standard at 65 ppb.

A combination of recently finalized or proposed air pollution rules – including “Tier 3” clean vehicle and fuels standards – will significantly cut smog-forming emissions from industry and transportation, helping states meet the proposed standards. EPA’s analysis of federal programs that reduce air pollution from fuels, vehicles and engines of all sizes, power plants and other industries shows the vast majority of U.S. counties with monitors would meet the more protective standards by 2025 just with the rules and programs now in place or underway. Local communities, states, and the federal government have made substantial progress in reducing ground-level ozone. Nationally, from 1980 to 2013, average ozone levels have fallen 33 percent. EPA projects this progress will continue.
The Clean Air Act provides states with time to meet the standards. Depending on the severity of their ozone problem, areas would have between 2020 and 2037 to meet the standards. To ensure people are alerted when ozone reaches unhealthy levels, EPA is proposing to extend the ozone monitoring season for 33 states. This is particularly important for at-risk groups, including children and people with asthma because it will provide information so families can take steps to protect their health on smoggy days.

The agency is also proposing to strengthen the “secondary” ozone standard to a level within 65 to 70 ppb to protect plants, trees and ecosystems from damaging levels of ground-level ozone. New studies add to the evidence showing that repeated exposure to ozone stunts the growth of trees, damages plants, and reduces crop yield. The proposed level corresponds to levels of seasonal ozone exposure scientists have determined would be more protective.

EPA will seek public comment on the proposal for 90 days following publication in the Federal Register, and the agency plans to hold three public hearings. EPA will issue final ozone standards by October 1, 2015.

> View EPA’s proposal.
> Read more about EPA air quality standards.
> Discover CAPCOG’s Air Quality Program.
> Read the CAPCOG Air Quality Program's EPA Ozone Standard Fact Sheet.

Environmental summit to take place in Bastrop

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and Texas Senator Kirk Watson will conduct the 2014 Central Texas Environmental Summit “Collaboration Along the Corridor,” so community stakeholders can learn about and discuss solutions to environmental challenges facing the area.

The summit will take place from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Monday, Dec. 8, at the Bastrop Convention and Exhibit Center, 1408 Chestnut St. in Bastrop.
Keynote speakers will address two topics: Texas Water Update: Drought, Water Conservation, and State’s Role; and Central Texas Air Quality Update.

Key state and regional government staff will man outreach and education booths to provide one-on-one discussion opportunities and answer questions for attendees. The Capital Area Council of Governments Solid Waste and Air Quality programs will present exhibits in their areas of expertise. 

Attendance is free, but registration is required. 

> Learn more about and register for the Central Texas Environmental Summit.
> Discover CAPCOG’s Air Quality Program.
> Find out about CAPCOG’s Solid Waste Program.

Schreck delivers economic expertise to region

Friday, November 21, 2014

Chris Schreck, the Capital Area Council of Governments’ Economic Development Manager, wants to bring economic growth expertise to every jurisdiction in the region. He is eager to lend expertise but also is seeking to learn more from the region’s communities.

“I’m a big believer in development initiatives that begin with the community,” Schreck said. “People have their priorities and places have their unique assets. Economic development that begins by taking an inventory of those items can reveal really unique opportunities to create growth and jobs while preserving or creating a distinct sense of place.”

Schreck already is meeting with jurisdictions throughout the region, such as Eanes Independent School District, to present on economic development opportunities.

Before coming to CAPCOG in October, Schreck provided economic and technology policy consulting for SRI International, where he focused on technology-based economic development, higher education, and economic data analysis.

Schreck also is developing the next Capital Area Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy with the CAEDD, which creates and supports goals and objectives the region should seek to continue economic prosperity. 

> Contact Chris Schreck, CAPCOG's Economic Development Manager.
> Learn more about the Community and Economic Development Program.

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