Air quality in North Texas is more than a number on an ozone chart or indication of how hazy the skyline appears. Air quality in North Texas affects health conditions, the environment, economic development, and federal funding of transportation projects. As one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas — with a high level of traffic congestion — in the United States, air quality in Dallas-Fort Worth has once again gotten the attention of local leaders. As a result, the cities of Southlake, Grapevine and Colleyville, in conjunction with the chambers of commerce in each city and North Central Texas Council of Governments, are hosting the Regional Air Quality Luncheon and Panel Discussion April 4, 11:30 a.m., at the Colleyville Center.
The good news: Air quality in North Texas is improving. The bad news: Air quality in North Texas does still not meet federal standards. Currently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has designated 10 counties in North Texas as nonattainment for the pollutant ozone under the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS): Collin, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, Johnson, Kaufman, Parker, Rockwall, Tarrant and Wise counties. The EPA measures pollutant concentrations, which are reported daily in all urban areas of the U.S. with populations exceeding 200,000. An evaluation of air pollutants is done every three years to determine if a region is in attainment.
According to Jenna Waters, president of the Colleyville Chamber of Commerce and former executive director of the Clean Air Coalition, nonattainment status brings far-reaching consequences.
“Being in nonattainment can result in strict sanctions and not getting full federal funding for transportation projects, which means traffic congestion won’t improve,” she explains, noting vehicle emissions is the leading cause of air pollution in DFW. “The best way to eliminate ozone is to eliminate people driving to work individually, either through carpooling, telecommuting or using public transportation.”
Educating the business community about air quality and teaching best practices are the objectives of the April 4 forum. The scheduled panelists are:
“Air quality has no borders. As a region, we must work together to get in attainment. Businesses can help by being better stewards of the environment and better corporate citizens,” states Waters.
One of the organizations working in cooperation with federal, state, and local partners to ensure all air quality requirements are met is the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG). Its goal is to achieve attainment of the ozone NAAQS as early as possible and contribute to a better quality of life for all North Texans.
According to NCTCOG Director Mindy Mize, the organization uses several strategies to help improve air quality in the 10-county nonattainment region of North Texas.
“Mobile sources, such as cars and trucks, are top contributors of ozone emissions in the North Texas Region. Our strategies include promotion of education programs, such as Air North Texas that encourages the general public to take simple actions to improve air quality. Also, NCTCOG has many programs that have helped reduce emissions such as the AirCheckTexas Drive a Clean Machine Program that provides financial assistance to qualifying motorists for emission-related vehicle repair or replacement.”
NCTCOG’s Dallas-Fort Worth Clean Cities Coalition is a public-private partnership aimed at advancing the economic, environmental and energy-security goals of the U.S. and promotes alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles to public and private fleets and the general public. Additionally, since 2006, NCTCOG has distributed nearly $50 million dollars to local governments and the private sector to help improve air quality by funding improvements to fleet vehicles.
For more information about air quality programs in North Texas, visit these sites:
The cost to attend the April 4 luncheon is $20 in advance and $25 at the door. Reservations can be made through the Southlake Chamber of Commerce, Grapevine Chamber of Commerce, and Colleyville Chamber of Commerce.