Earth Friendly: It's time to give a flip about clean air

By Kate Garcia
May 8, 2014 at 12:08 a.m.

There is one question I like to ask when I present air quality, whether it be to a group of kids or to a group of adults: You wouldn't take a bath in dirty water, would you?

More times than not, I see the downturned corners of the mouth and a nod, which usually means "She made a good point" or "guess I never really thought of it that way." Hopefully, this Earth Friendly column will leave you with the same expression.

I have made it a point to begin every year with a self-improving New Year's resolution. This year's resolution was honest communication. It's harder than it sounds. So, in honor of the beginning of ozone season here in Victoria, I am about to communicate honestly with you.

Air quality is boring to a majority of people; I get that. I have seen enough disengaged faces during my presentations to know that most people generally don't give a flip about whether the air is clean or not.

Well, y'all, I'm here to tell you a flip should be given; in fact, it should be an Olympic gold medal worthy flip.

There are many luxuries right now that we Victorians enjoy and, oftentimes don't put into perspective. For one, our vehicle inspection prices are typically lower than many surrounding metropolitan areas suffering from air quality issues. That sticker only costs us Victorians about $14.50, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety's website.

Now, imagine living in an area that has air quality issues.

Houston, for example, is classified for ozone as non-attainment, which means it doesn't meet the Environmental Protection Agency's standards for clean air. Let's imagine I live in Houston, I drive a 2009 vehicle, and it's due for inspection. I pull in with $15 in my pocket because that's what I paid in Victoria, which is currently almost a non-attainment city.

I am quickly told to come back with more cash because Houston not only requires a one-year safety inspection ($14.50) but also an emissions test ($27.25). I return to the inspection place with $41.45 because that's the cost of living in an area with air quality issues. For all you math lovers out there, that is a 185 percent increase in cost of just an inspection on your car.

Air quality is suddenly becoming a more interesting topic now that we're putting monetary consequences to it, isn't it? Being classified as a non-attainment area won't only affect the consumer directly but also industry.

For instance, as referenced in the Clean Air Act, requirements for permitting will become more stringent. Those looking to build a new facility or make significant changes to an existing facility will need to obtain a non-attainment permit that will "... 1) offset projected emissions of the specific pollutants which do not meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) with emission reductions of the pollutants at existing facilities, and 2) install pollution control technology to achieve the lowest achievable emission rate (40 CFR 51.165)."

So, as you can see, what may seem like a boring topic won't seem so mundane if we allow it sneak up and bite us in the pocket book. Some advice to all Victorians: Drive less, don't idle, carpool and maintain your vehicle.

Kate Garcia is the programs coordinator for the city of Victoria, Environmental Services.



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