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Air Quality

vision
status = unchanged

We are healthy.

We live, work, learn and play in accessible, safe,
clean, and healthy physical environments.

Austin area was in attainment of National Air Quality Standards in 2015

Indicator: Attainment of National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS)

Goal: Attainment

Target: Continue to be in attainment

Key Trends: The Austin area remains in attainment of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, even though the Environmental Protection Agency tightened the standard for ozone. Central Texas had an average peak ozone level of 69 parts per billion (ppb) in 2014, very close the new 70 ppb standard. Falling below this standard could result in $24—$42 billion in economic losses for the region, according to a report by the Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG).

what the data tell us

The Austin area remains in attainment of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

the story behind the indicator

The Environmental Protection Agency sets National Ambient Air Quality Standards for the maximum allowable concentrations of air pollutants. The pollutants that are tracked are carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particle pollution, and sulfur dioxide. Ozone most frequently approaches unhealthy levels in our region.

Almost everyone benefits from better air quality. The Capital Area Council of Governments reports that approximately that 82% of the Austin-Round Rock Metropolitan Statistical Are would benefit from lower ozone levels. CAPCOG estimates that a 1 ppb reduction in peak ozone levels could prevent 2-3 deaths per year within the Austin region.

Poor air quality causes irritation to the throat and lungs, results in diminished lung capacity, and aggravates asthma and other respiratory problems. These health issues result in increased health care costs and increased school absences. Children, older adults, people who are active outdoors, and people with lung conditions such as asthma are most impacted by poor air quality, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

On October 1, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized a new, more stringent National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ground-level ozone of 70 parts per billion (ppb). The former standard, set in 2008, was 75 parts per billion (ppb). Since 1999, the region’s ozone design value has dropped from 89 ppb to 69 ppb in 2014, a 22% decrease.

a closer look

Click on one of the titles below for more information.

» Design Value Trend

The Environmental Protection Agency sets National Ambient Air Quality Standards for the maximum allowable concentrations of air pollutants. The pollutants tracked are carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particle pollution, and sulfur dioxide. Ozone most frequently approaches unhealthy levels in our region. While ozone air quality levels in our region have been improving with a steady decline in ozone levels detected, the new ozone standard set by the Environmental Protection Agency in October 2015 is very close to our current level.

Definition: Ground-level ozone is formed through chemical reactions between natural and man-made emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) in the presence of heat and sunlight. The EPA determines whether or not an area is in attainment of air quality standards by averaging the area’s fourth highest ground-level ozone readings over the past three years. This average is called the design value. If the design value is higher than the designated air quality standard set by the EPA, then an area is in non-attainment.

» 2014 Austin-Round Rock MSA ozone season weekday NOx emissions

Forty-six percent of nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions on weekdays in the Austin-Round Rock Metropolitan Statistical Area come from on-road sources such as car, bus, and truck traffic. NOx emissions in Austin-Round Rock MSA are significantly higher on weekdays than during the weekend. Federal emission standards on new on-road and non-road equipment will result in significant emission reductions over the next ten years.

Definition: The emissions inventory is an accounting of emissions in a region, categorized by the type of emissions source. Point sources represent large industrial facilities such as power plants or cement plants. The on-road category represents emissions from traffic on roadways while non-road is made up of construction, mining and landscaping equipment. The area source category is made up of small commercial businesses like gas stations and consumer products like house paint.

Data Source: Capital Area Council of Government, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality

» 2014 Austin-Round Rock MSA ozone season weekday VOC Emissions

Seventy percent of volatile organic compound emissions (VOCs) originate from area sources.

Data Considerations: The emissions inventory is an accounting of emissions in a region, categorized by the type of emissions source. Point sources represent large industrial facilities such as power plants or cement plants. The on-road category represents emissions from traffic on roadways while non-road is made up of construction, mining and landscaping equipment. The area source category is made up of small commercial businesses like gas stations and consumer products like house paint.

Data Source: Capital Area Council of Government, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality

some local efforts to improve this indicator

  • The Central Texas Clean Air Coalition is a group of stakeholders from regional jurisdictions that voluntarily work together to improve air quality in Central Texas and maintain compliance with federal standards. In December 2013, the CAC adopted Ozone Advance, a voluntary regional ozone plan to maintain attainment. This is the fourth ozone plan adopted since 2002. In 2012, the Clean Air Coalition entered into an Ozone Action partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency. Ozone Action provides a framework to help regions improve air quality and also allows regions to get increased involvement and support from the Environmental Protection Agency in their efforts. In recognition of these efforts, in 2013, the coalition received a 2013 Climate Leadership Award from the EPA.
     
  • Air Check Texas: Drive a Clean Machine provides up to $3,500 for people living in Travis and Williamson Counties to help them replace older vehicles with newer, cleaner vehicles. The program, operated by the State of Texas, is available to people below certain income levels who wish to replace a car that is at least ten years old and has failed emissions tests.

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  • Commute Solutions, a collaborative effort led by the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, provides education and information on strategies to reduce ’drive alone’ vehicle trips. The organization promotes transportation options including carpools, vanpools, transit, bicycling, and walking, as well as flextime, compressed workweeks, and teleworking as strategies. The partner site mycommutesolutions.com helps connect carpoolers, plan trips by transit, and map a bike route, and helps people easily calculate fuel saved, calories burned and pollution reduced.

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  • The Austin Climate Protection Program of the City of Austin has a goal of making Austin the leading city in the nation in the fight against climate change. In 2012, the City’s Office of Sustainability achieved "Climate Registered" status by following national standards for calculating, verifying and publicly reporting their carbon footprint.

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  • The City of Austin's Sustainability Action Agenda Progress Report highlights progress in our community’s efforts to become a more sustainable city.

vulnerable populations

The American Lung Association reports that the following groups of people are at higher risk of health problems due to airborne pollutants: