More people, more pollution – UPDATED

Posted in Commentary, Commissioners Court, Road Issues, SH 29, The Environment, Transportation, Uncategorized, Williamson County at 11:54 am by wcnews

Received via Email:

Reading today’s [Wednesday December 9, 2008 issue] Sun, the County commissioners sound like Perry with lowered standards for ozone.

Covey, “I’m wondering how we got here…..” DUH, uncontrolled growth and the added traffic, additional roads. Now she’s worried about the new limits hampering development and road construction…….

Get a clue lady!

That’s in relation to the recent move by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to designate Williamson County, along with Travis, as being in “nonattainment“. Nonattainment areas are defined as:

..areas that have failed to meet federal standards for ambient air quality.

The Austin-San Marcos Nonattainment area includes Travis, Williamson, Bastrop, Hays and Caldwell counties.  From what can be discerned from the TCEQ Williamson County is not being placed in nonattainment because of it’s ambient air quality, but because of their determination that Williamson contributes to Travis County’s poor air quality. From the TCEQ’s recommendation [.pdf].

Overview. The Air Quality Division (AQD) reviewed all ozone monitor data to determine which
monitors and counties show violations of the revised ozone standard. For counties with monitors that violate the standard (a design value that is greater than 0.075 parts per million), the AQD reviewed the Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) boundaries. The design values reviewed apply data from calendar years 2005 through 2007; 2008 data (not yet complete) was also reviewed. The AQD also considered whether the county was previously designated nonattainment for the 1997 eight-hour ozone standard (0.08 parts per million or, with allowed rounding, 85 parts per billion). The AQD analyzed historical wind patterns covering calendar years 2000 through 2007, concentrating on days with ozone measurements greater than 0.075 parts per million, as well as 2005 emissions inventory data, and population density and county-to-county commuting patterns from the 2000 Census. (EPA March 28, 2000, guidance memorandum recommends the default boundary be the MSA for areas with violating
monitors, and provides criteria states can look at to make different recommendations.)
Austin. Travis County contains the area’s federal regulatory design-value monitor with a reading of 80 parts per billion for 2005 through 2007. Mobile sources make up 78 percent of 2005 NOx emissions from the five-county MSA. More than 12 percent of the Travis County workforce commutes from Williamson County. Historical wind patterns indicate that ozone was transported from Williamson County to Travis County on more than five days with high ozone during the seven year period. Mobile and stationary emissions and commuting from the three remaining MSA counties (Bastrop, Caldwell, and Hays) are relatively insignificant.  Recommendation: Travis and Williamson. (Emphasis added).

Just another thing to add to the warm feelings between Williamson and Travis counties. As the title of this post, and the email both point out, this should not be a shocker to those in our county government.  The tremendous growth of Williamson County is not news.  Especially to those who have done so much to promote the sprawling growth and road/highway construction all across our county. The added pollution just comes with the territory.

I will agree that it seems like a raw deal since Williamson’s air isn’t bad (yet), but we do have to share the air with the rest of the planet, and actions have consequences. If we are going to clean up our environment, God’s creation, we have to start now. From this week’s TDP article on this issue, Air quality status could slow road construction, we can see what is worrying our county elected officials.

County Commissioner Ron Morrison said those changes could have a dramatic affect.

“If it takes a year now to get started, it’s going to take three to five years (under the proposed guidelines),” Morrison said.

It’s all about building roads, and from this past election we know who funds the WCGOP’s campaigns in Williamson County. While EOW has issues with certain toll roads, and with the SH 29 expansion, the issue here is not about roads or no roads. Of course some new roads must, and will, be built. What this is about about is looking at what we’re doing, and planning for the future, how we get back-and-forth, and how we might be able to do that with the least amount of pollution.

The SH 29 expansion, as an example, is just setting the county up for more sprawling growth. With large subsivisions, strip malls, and a long highway for commuters – inside and outside of Williamson County. While the WCGOP commissioners courts reaction is predictable, (see item #21 on 12.09.08 agenda), it would be much better if they acknowledged that they understand the larger environmental issue.  A head-in-the-sand, roads only approach, that favors developers, road contradiction, design, engineering and consulting firms, isn’t going to cut it anymore.

[UPDATE]:  Finally found a report from the meeting on Tuesday, Construction could halt in Wilco if air quality status is poor. It states Williamson County was left off the list.

TCEQ did decide to leave Williamson County off that list, but the county’s not in the clear just yet.

Gov. Rick Perry could decide to put the county back on that list, or the EPA has the final word when it submits its decision by March 2010.

It’s extremely unlikely that Perry would put any county back on this list. Looks like Williamson is in the clear for now.

1 Comment »

  1. gregry17 said,

    December 12, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    Hear, hear!

    Our commissioners continue to drive home the point. They stand for progress. Damn your lungs, we need highways. Don’t worry about the resources, we need roads. To hell with your health and peace of mind…we must move FORWARD. Maybe, just maybe the TCEQ will save us from ourselves. It’s all in Rick Perry’s hands now. I’m coughing up a lung.
    Good note. I was hoping you’d write a piece on this. We can hope that our new leadership in the county will get behind the TCEQ and help determine the best steps to make our air better. Plant a tree on your birthday.
    Thanks. GW

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