The Problem With Central Texas' Air Quality: Ozone


Although air quality encompasses a wide variety of issues, one key challenge to the Central Texas region is ground-level ozone pollution. The Clean Air Partners program is centrally focused on the reduction of pollutants that form ground-level ozone in order to improve regional air quality in Central Texas.

Ozone: The Threat is Real
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established standards for unhealthy airborne pollutants. In Central Texas, ground-level ozone is the pollutant of primary concern.  Ozone also occurs naturally in the upper atmosphere and protects us from harmful solar radiation, but ground-level ozone is formed when man-made emissions of NOx (Nitrogen Oxides) and VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) combine and “cook” in the sun, mainly during the summertime.  Ozone is produced in greater volumes on hot, sunny days when there is little wind.
The two major pollutants, NOx and VOC, react with the sun’s heat to create ozone.  Most of our region’s NOx and VOC emissions come from commuting vehicles, construction/site equipment and other business practices.  Ozone takes time to form, and as the daytime temperature increases, the levels build.  This makes vehicle emissions from the morning rush a major contributing factor to regional ozone levels for the rest of the day.

Ground-level ozone is a serious threat to the health, the economy and livability within the region.  This invisible pollutant hovers at our level, endangering our health and impairing our breathing, with the greatest risks on our children, the elderly and those suffering from lung related illnesses. High ozone days (Ozone Action Days) can also impact healthy people that are active and working outdoors.  Furthermore, federal regulations to reduce ozone pollution can threaten our economy and impose mandatory restrictions on the way we do business….actions that have already impacted other metropolitan areas around the nation.

Regulating Our Ozone  
The Federal Clean Air Act requires that all metropolitan areas maintain standards (allowable levels) for ground-level ozone.  The EPA monitors regional air quality and classifies areas that exceed these ozone levels as "nonattainment areas." Nonattainment areas are required to develop plans to improve air quality with EPA-mandated roadway funding restrictions, vehicle emissions testing, and limits on new business-related emissions.  Central Texas has had recent violations of the EPA 8-hour standard for ground-level ozone.  Repeated violations could force our region to be designated as nonattainment in the near future.
In an effort to avoid these violations and designation, our region has put forth early action efforts within Central Texas (the Clean Air Partners Program being one of those), working to reduce our ozone levels in an effort to avoid a nonattainment designation.  Since 2001, area officials and stakeholders have come together to develop programs and plans to deal with our ozone issue.  Clean Air Partners also began in 2001 as a way to encourage businesses to take action and make an impact.  In 2002, the Ozone Flex Agreement was formed to address the 1-hour ozone standard, followed by the Early Action Compact and Clean Air Action Plan (2002-2007) to address the 8-hour ozone standard.  Currently, the 8-hour Ozone (O3) Flex Agreement, or “8-O3 Flex” reports ongoing efforts under the 8-hour standard.  The 8-O3 Flex reports voluntary emission reductions achieved by local government efforts.  A key component of these voluntary reductions is the employer impact on ozone via on-site and commute-related emissions (i.e. the actions of Clean Air Partners).  
Ozone 101

Ozone 101 – What is ozone? How does it occur?  What are its health impacts? EPA standards

Air Quality Improvement Initiatives – Central Texas clean air plans and efforts since 2002

Ozone MonitoringReal-time ozone levels from Central Texas monitors

Emissions InventoryEstimated list of source emissions in Central Texas

Air Quality ReportsSubmitted reports on Central Texas air quality efforts
Ozone Trends and Resources/Links on ozone and related topics





Clean Air Partners Of Texas © 2011