Speak Up Austin: Preserving Austin’s air quality
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On a cloudy day in Austin, poor air quality isn't an issue.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality reported Tuesday that ozone pollution was at 27 parts per billion thanks to recent rains, which is significantly lower than the national limit of 75 parts per billion.
However, Travis County Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt believes it’s a number our region is close to exceeding on a daily basis.
"If we exceed our limit there will be serious restrictions on our ability to build additional capacity,” Eckhardt said.
More restrictions would mean more gridlock on area highways and a need to use other ways to get around.
Pharr Andrews with Austin's Air Quality Program says the major polluter locally is vehicle emissions.
"Drive less. Explore alternative forms of transportation like riding the bus, combining trips, walking or taking the train," she said. "This year, it might not be enough because we are so close to exceeding the healthy air standard."
Eckhardt warns that car pollution only makes up about one-fourth of the area's ozone issues. She also says Austin's air quality issues can't be tackled through just local efforts.
"Most of it is coming in from other places--off of coal-fired power plants and industrial activity off the Gulf Coast," Eckhardt said.
Beyond state lines, Eckhardt says poor industrial standards in Mexico jeopardize Central Texas’ air quality. She says local leaders are working with neighbors in nearby regions, but it will take time.
"There are definitely some impediments and some major fiscal costs in some of these other regions to retooling their economic industrial mix," Eckhardt said.
Austin leaders hope you will speak up now with ways to lessen the impact of ozone gases we create, while encouraging neighboring communities to make improvements that affect us.
Officials will be working on the comprehensive plan starting at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Austin City Hall. Click here` at that time to watch a live webcast of the meeting.
If you can't make the meeting, city leaders encourage you to post your ideas on SpeakUpAustin.org and vote on other proposals.