Comment: Attention on area's air quality is crucial


Comment: Attention on area's air quality is crucial

Web Posted: 09/27/2006 06:54 PM CDT

Chip Haass - Special to the Express-News

As is clear from the editorial "Legislators impeding city's clean air efforts" (Sept. 3), local leadership is deeply involved in air quality planning.

There are two aspects of the local planning effort that must be emphasized.

The public must understand that poor air quality represents a health risk to them and their families. The city of San Antonio, Bexar County, the Alamo Area Council of

Governments and other local agencies have promoted and will continue to promote public awareness through citizen participation programs, such as the Drive Clean Across

Texas campaign, the Ride Share program and others.

Second, although the local air quality planning process took on special significance in

2002 when the Early Action Compact was signed, the process has continued to build momentum. This work must continue.

Local leaders have taken a strong stand. Bexar County and AACOG's Clean Cities program opened the first dual alternate fuel ethanol (E85)/propane station this side of

California in September 2005.

It has been my pleasure to work during the past year with the Texas Commission on

Environmental Quality, CPS Energy, AACOG and others to evaluate new voluntary measures.

We are determining the value of further enforcement of a vehicle anti-smoking ordinance, an anti-idling ordinance for heavy-duty diesel vehicles and health permit and compliance inspection efforts through the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District in partnership with the TCEQ.

We are poised to enable an increase in the use of hybrid taxis around the city. Through the work of Councilman Roland Gutierrez, the city of San Antonio launched the hybrid vehicle pilot parking program in late January, which we will work to extend.

The private sector has proven a strong ally as well. Important air emission reductions are slated through voluntary actions by local industry.

The TXI Hunter cement plant in northern Comal County has voluntarily reduced oxides of nitrogen during the ozone season (April 1 to Oct. 31) by about 32 percent. Recently,

H-E-B opened a string of E85 stations up and down Interstate 35.

This is the kind of effort required throughout the region, the state and the nation if San

Antonio and many of the large cities in the country are to have clean air.

Yet more work needs to be done. The federal clean air standards call for ozone concentration measurements that average less than 85 parts per billion, averaged over a three-year period. The crucial three years in this measurement are 2005, 2006 and 2007.

The measure for 2005 was 86 parts per billion; so far in 2006, the measure is 87 parts per billion.

These two numbers mean we must record a measure below 82 parts per billion in 2007 to keep within the federal standard.

As San Antonio grows, application of cleaner practices will be required of our business and industry, and our citizens must become increasingly aware of the value for them in keeping Texas' skies clear blue.


San Antonio City Councilman Chip Haass represents District 10.