Everything from how you drive your car to the hours that you work could change, under a comprehensive plan to get San Antonio back into compliance with federal clear air laws, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
The plan, which was spelled out to a City Council committee, is not just suggestions, according to Assistant City Manager and former Metro Health Director Dr. Colleen Bridger, who warned that if we don't get our air cleaned up, the city could face serious penalties.
"We know it needs to be done by December of 2020, we know we need to get the ozone down to 70, and we know exactly what will happen if we fail to do that," Bridger told City Council.
Bridger's proposals include more active intervention with businesses, for example, suggesting that the basic work schedules of employees be changed, to cut down on the vehicle emissions during traditional rush hours. She says telecommuting, using new technology, will also be encouraged.
"There are a lot of jobs that the city has that don't require that the person drive into the office every day to effectively do their job," she said.
She also said companies will suggest that eight hour days be changed, for example, to four ten hour days, also as a way to cut down on vehicle emissions, which, along with industrial plants are the main source of ozone pollution.
Bridger says those 'Ozone Action Days' that you hear about and then ignore will be taken a lot more seriously.
"On Ozone Action Days, don't drive to a meeting," she suggested. "Change the meeting so you all can call in. Don't wait in the drive through, park your car, go in, and get your food...or just bring your lunch."
Idling vehicles, in drive through lanes, in front of schools as parents wait for kids, and at other locations are a major source of ozone pollution, and Bridger said the city, which has already passed laws prohibiting trucks from idling for longer than five minutes, may do more.
"Relook at the anti-idling ordinance, and see if we can tighten it up a little bit, and see if we can eliminate some of the exceptions."
For example, she says a lot of veteran heavy equipment operators don't realize that they don't have to idle their engines any more, that new model engines can work just as well after being switched off and switched back on.
Another proposal is to us money from the Volkswagon settlement, where the automaker was fined for misstating the emissions from its vehicles, will be used to replace dirty diesel-burning buses.
"The number one priority for everybody in this region is to work on replacing old school buses," she said.
Another potential initiative is to replace the City's fleet of vehicles, as they come up for replacement, with electric vehicles. That is also part of the city's long range climate change initiative. Bridger says the city can also do more to encourage private use of electric vehicles, by expanding the number of chargers that are available across the city.
But the key, she says, will be to make sure that everybody knows that they have a role to play in fixing this problem.
"Business outreach, school district outreach, campus outreach, college students are great ambassadors for this message, and we really want to take advantage of that."
If the city doesn't come into compliance with federal clean air laws, there are many punishments that await. All drivers will be forced to include expensive emissions testing in their annual safety inspection. Permits to build new highways will be delayed or denied, and the city's manufacturing landscape could be seriously affected. Conceiveably, although this has never been imposed, the U.S. EPA has the authority to reduce all speed limits in an area surroundin a non attainment city to 55 mph, until the clean air problem has been resolved.