Benefits of the “Quit Coal by 2014” scenario — 3. Less Ozone

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In 2009, “It is a literally a matter of one or two parts per billion…” County Commissioner Karen Hubner, recently mapped out ozone nonattainment's economic impacts to Austinites, saying:  “The implications are huge and will cost taxpayers a lot of money.

Commissioner Huber explains,

First, going into nonattainment would subject us to a slew of new rules and regulations that could hang over our heads for up to 20 years after we return to air quality compliance. These regulations would create a lag effect on everything, from higher energy bills for households to creation of new businesses, as well as more expensive transportation projects (that you finance).

Second, “Nonattainment would require us to cede local control of transportation projects to state and federal oversight regulations. Conforming to their regulations would create longer construction times and higher construction costs.

Third, “… our businesses could be subject to much harsher oversight than they currently enjoy… Nonattainment regulations would subject power plants to higher emissions standards, resulting in higher electricity bills. Gasoline might have to be reformulated before it can be used to fuel our vehicles, and your car would be required to pass stringent emissions testing.

Ozone is Expensive

How much does Ozone cost Austin? This year, 2009, Austin is hovering within one day of Ozone nonattainment status. “It is a literally a matter of one or two parts per billion whether we violate the federal health standard on ozone,” says Jim Marston, board chair of the Clean Air Force of Central Texas. (1)

“It is a literally a matter of one or two parts per billion whether we violate the federal health standard on ozone,” says Jim Marston, board chair of the Clean Air Force of Central Texas.

Measurement of Austin's ozone count today, Oct. 22 2009, 6am to 7am, shows Austin as highest in the region, edging out San Antonio by about 7 parts per billion.

Before leaving office, Mayor Will Wynn said failure to meet federal ozone air quality standards would have heavy costs for the local economy, increasing operating expenses for Austin's transportation industry,  businesses and government. He also said that the highest cost is to the health of Central Texas citizens. (2)

Financial Impacts

According to the Daily Texan, June 24, 2009, ozone non-attainment could bring federal restrictions that may last up to 20 years, the Austin American Statesman has reported “nonattainment” could mean fines. (3, 4)   County Commissioner Karen Hubner, recently mapped out nonattainment's economic impacts:  “The implications are huge and will cost taxpayers a lot of money. She lists a number of areas of impact to both citizens and businesses:

  • new rules and regulations that could hang over our heads for up to 20 years after we return to air quality compliance

  • higher energy bills for households

  • more stringent regulation on the creation of new businesses

  • total oversight of transportation projects by new state and federal regulations

  • longer construction times and higher construction costs on transportation projects (financed by taxpayers)

  • much harsher oversight on existing businesses

  • higher emissions standards on area power plants

  • possible reformation on gasoline

  • your car would be required to pass stringent emissions testing (5)

    Health Impacts

    Regarding ozone's effect on local health, the American Lung Association reported over 260,000 cases of lung disease in Travis County, 2005. The Travis County Air Quality Project connects this number to ozone pollution and states, “Even healthy children are at risk.” (6)

    Environmental, health, and social justice advocates are particularly sensitive to ozone's impacts on area children and adults. Eva Hernandez, Sierra Club Texas Coal Organizer says, “Austin's coal plant pollution – smog and ozone-forming gas, particulate matter, and mercury – is deadly to humans. It causes human suffering and high health care costs from asthma, respiratory illnesses, heart disease, brain disease and developmental disorders.” (7)

    Quit Coal, Save Money

    According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Austin is “downwind” of its coal plant, located just two counties east of town. The plant contributes ozone to the Austin area every day. But there's an easy, local economy solution: Austin Energy recently released its “Quit Coal by 2014” scenario, which provides for shuttering Austin's clunker coal plant (the city's worst polluter) and replacing it with local rooftop solar and energy efficiency projects. This clean by 2014 scenario is reported to cost 5% more than the current energy plan, which keep's Austin's coal plant burning for ten more years, 2010 to 2020. City Council will be voting on this matter within weeks.

    For my overview of the Quit Coal by 2014 Scenario, please check out: http://tinyurl.com/yzyopzh

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    Notes

    1. Austin Chronicle, August 18, 2009 – http://www.austinchronicle.com…

    2. Daily Texan, April 22, 2009 – http://www.dailytexanonline.co…

    3. Daily Texan, June 24, 2009 – “Some [restrictions]have to do with transportation, some have to do with permitting, which would slow down industrial growth. If we want to continue economic growth and get out of this slump, we need to stay in attainment,” City Sustainability Officer Fred Blood – http://www.dailytexanonline.co…

    4. Daily Texan, July 15, 2009 –

    http://www.dailytexanonline.co…

    5. Karen Huber, Precinct Three Report, August 14, 2009 – http://www.precinct3report.com…

    6. Travis County Air Quality Project – http://www.co.travis.tx.us/air…

    7. Guidry News, Sept. 2, 2009 – http://www.guidrynews.com/stor…

    For more info from the City, visit http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/air…

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