Grant could help Victoria avoid ozone sanctions
Aug. 30, 2010 at 3:30 a.m.
What's NextThe city council will also consider declaring its intent to enter into a property tax abatement agreement with Caterpillar.
Caterpillar announced it plans to break ground next month on a $120 million to $150 million plant in Victoria to manufacture five lines of hydraulic excavators. The plant, which will be at the Lone Tree Business Center, will employ about 500 people when it's fully operational in 2014.
City officials have said they plan to offer a 10-year, 100-percent abatement on improvements to the property. The 320 acres would still be taxed.
Victoria plans to continue its ozone research in hopes of avoiding sanctions if the federal government tightens its standards for what constitutes violations.
Cyril Durrenberger, a University of Texas researcher who works with the city, said most of Victoria's ozone is blown into the county from other areas. That could put the county, which is responsible for only a small amount of the ozone, in violation of new standards expected out later this year.
"Because it's very small, it's going to be difficult for them to find something to lower those concentrations," he said. "It would be difficult for the area to find some controls that haven't already been applied that would be effective at reducing it below the standard."
That might help Victoria avoid federal sanctions by showing regulators there's not much more that can be done locally, Durrenberger said.
The city council will meet at 5 p.m. Tuesday at 107 W. Juan Linn St. to consider accepting a $601,039 grant. The money would be used to continue a 10-year program of monitoring the city's air quality.
That includes installing two new air quality monitoring stations, developing computer models and updating a list of sources for emissions that lead to ozone formation.
Jerry James, the city's director of Environmental Services, said Victoria's three-year ozone average is 65 parts per billion. The federal government is considering lowering the cap for violations to between 60 and 70 parts per billion, he said.
The city hopes the research will show regulators that on high ozone days that more than 70 percent of the pollutant comes from outside the area.
"We will still have to comply with the rules," James aid. "But the fact that we're able to show this transport could have something to do with how we go about complying."
Durrenberger said the work could also indirectly help reduce Victoria's ozone problem.
"If we have a better understanding of what the ozone levels are and we understand what causes that, that allows us to see if we can come up with some approach we can use to reduce those," he said.
That would be done by developing a statewide plan that reduces ozone levels in other locations, he said.