In San Antonio, More ‘Bad Air Days’ Could Come With A Price

The city’s air quality has been downgraded by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Not addressing the issue could make San Antonio less competitive.

By Michael Marks & Shelly BrisbinAugust 19, 2021 3:07 pm,

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency downgraded San Antonio’s air quality this week. That could mean new requirements for the city and its residents.

Cities are required to maintain certain air quality standards under the federal Clean Air Act. San Antonio has been out of compliance for years.

Steven Nivin is chair of the economics department at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. He told Texas Standard that San Antonio must implement programs aimed at getting the city back into compliance with air quality standards.

“For cars that are older than two years old, they’re going to start having to get inspections, possibly repairs, if they’re not in attainment,” Nivin said.

Construction projects could also be delayed by an enhanced permitting processes.

Nivin says San Antonio could face competitive disadvantages as companies planning to build in or move to the city might face higher costs than they would elsewhere. In a study, Nivin found lost manufacturing growth could cost the city from $3.7 billion to $27.5 billion under marginal nonattainment of clean air standards.

“I don’t think that the probability of that [high end estimate] happening is very high,” Nivin said.

He said project delays and additional costs are more likely, but not certain

Nivin says San Antonio will likely require some time to return to compliance with the Clean Air Act. To get there, the city could continue to improve the public transit system, expand trails and bike routes and declare more “bad ozone days” when fossil-fuel burning activity is discouraged.

The challenge, Nivin says, is that San Antonio is continuing to grow, making it harder to take the necessary steps to improve air quality.

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