Chamber staff joined more than 150 business and community leaders last week at the City of San Antonio Air Quality Summit. The event, hosted by the City of San Antonio Office of Sustainability and the San Antonio Business Journal focused on ways the business community can take an active role in improving the air quality in San Antonio and the surrounding region.
Attendees heard from Mayor Ron Nirenberg and representatives from VIA, Alamo Area Council of Government (AACOG), CPS Energy as well as speakers heading up air quality initiatives in Austin and Houston. Leroy Alloway, Director of Government and Community Relations for VIA, touched on their efforts to move toward an alternative-fuel fleet and to add light rail to relieve congestion and emissions, initiatives made possible by the City of San Antonio’s $4.3 million FY 2018 funding commitment. Diane Rath, Executive Director of AACOG spoke about their role in building regional collaboration to keep air quality a priority in Bexar County.
The event was timely in that the City of San Antonio is awaiting notification from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on whether Bexar County will be designated a nonattainment community. A non-attainment area is an area considered to have air quality worse than the National Ambient Air Quality Standards defined in the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1970. While the formal designation has yet to be announced, we anticipate the EPA to designate the San Antonio area as being in marginal non-attainment. This designation would affect transportation projects and halt federal highway funding, and it would require new or expanding manufacturers to enact tougher air pollution controls. If designated as being in marginal non-attainment, San Antonio and the surrounding region would have to provide emissions statements, baseline emission inventory, followed by periodic updates, and demonstrate transportation conformity to the EPA. Transportation conformity is a federal requirement in non-attainment areas to conduct air quality analysis on projects, programs, and policies identified in transportation plans, transportation improvement programs, federally funded projects, or projects requiring federal approval.
Mayor Nirenberg called on business leaders to engage in his initiative by taking the pledge to improve the city’s air quality. The pledge consists of a range of voluntarily activities such as keeping the tires of fleet vehicles properly inflated, to more significant commitments, such as buying bus passes for staff or offering telecommuting options to employees. Nirenberg urged businesses of all sizes to take the pledge and help reduce our carbon footprint.
The Chamber has been actively engaged in the city’s efforts to reduce emissions and improve air quality in San Antonio. We will be working to inform our members of the pledge and strongly encourage them to take it. You can access the pledge here.