As the San Antonio region moves into the heart of the summer Air Quality Health Alert season, the man who heads the metro's clean air effort says as of now, we are out of compliance with federal clean air laws, and are not within limits the region set in a local compact designed to keep the local clean air effort under local control, News Radio 1200 WOAI news reports.
"We are not doing well as far as ozone levels go in San Antonio," Peter Bella, Natural Resources Director at AACOG, told 1200 WOAI news as the region heads into the most sensitive time of year for ozone pollution. "We do have a real, very genuine challenge."
Bella says when Air Quality Health Alert Days start being declared, people should pay attention to them. they recommend a cut in unnecessary driving, not getting gas until after 6 PM, and not using drive through lanes and other areas where car engines are likely to be idling.
But what about the elephant in the room, the explosive growth of the Eagle Ford Shale region southeast of San Antonio, with it's massive increase in truck traffic and emissions from oil wells and oil industry equipment. Bella says it is too soon to tell exactly what the impact of the Eagle Ford boom is on our air quality in the city.
"There will be some impacts, but it is not clear yet what that means as far as a determining factor in our air quality," Bella said.
He says it is more likely due to more vehicles being on the highways due to the region's growing population.
"Its the cars and trucks we drive, its power generation that is based on fossil fuels, its all of us, based on our living patterns."
The bottom line is, this may very well be the year when the region finds itself at the mercy of federal regulators, who will come in and 'help' clean the air.
"Our numbers are going the wrong direction, the ozone numbers are climbing, and that means we need to make reductions in every sector."
Involvement of the federal government in our clean air effort will not be good for local residents. One thing the feds are likely to do is to mandate expensive new vehicle emissions tests for all vehicles as part of the annual car inspection program, and actually bar vehicles which fail the tests from being driven without expensive repairs.
The U.S. EPA has a number of other weapons in its arsenal to clean the air if we prove incapable of doing it ourselves. That includes severe restrictions on new manufacturing facilities, limits on commercial and residential development, and even lowering speed limits on area highways to 55.
San Antonio is the largest metro area in the country which is still considered to be 'in compliance' with federal clean air laws.