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Air quality research grant could help Victoria grow

Aug. 31, 2010 at 3:31 a.m.

Other BusinessThe city council also declared its intent to enter into a property tax abatement agreement with Caterpillar.

Caterpillar has announced it plans to break ground next month on a $120 million to $150 million plant in Victoria to manufacture two 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.

Tuesday's decision to continue ozone research in Victoria could help improve the business climate, as well as help the city avoid federal sanctions.

"The program itself shows a level of progressiveness that our community has with regards to air quality," said Dale Fowler with the Victoria Economic Development Corp. "I do know that our industrial clients seem to be encouraged by the fact this community pays attention to those things."

The city council voted Tuesday to accept a $601,039 grant. The money would be used to continue a 10-year program of monitoring the city's air quality.

Cyril Durrenberger, a University of Texas researcher who works with the city, has 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.

He said because so little ozone is generated locally, there isn't much more the city can do to lower the level of the pollutant. The research proves that, and it could help avoid federal sanctions if Victoria is in violation of the new ozone cap, he said.

"Most of the things that could happen involve the oil-and-gas industry," said Marie Lester, with the city's Environmental Services office.

Those rules cover everything from the floating roof storage tanks to increased use of low emission diesel.

Lester said the possible sanctions are determined by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which provides the grant, and the Environmental Protection Agency. "They did take into consideration the research the city has done."

She said the possible sanctions are subject to change.

Past talk of such sanctions as vapor recovery systems on gasoline pumps aren't on the list.

Lester said the city has received an advance on the grant to set up ozone monitoring stations at Inez and the Coleto Creek Power Station. They will be monitored and operated by the city and University of Texas, typically when the ozone is highest from May through October.

The state already has a monitoring station on Mockingbird Lane that it monitors all year.



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