The San Antonio Business Journal’s inaugural October 6 Air Quality Summit, co-hosted with the City of San Antonio’s Office of Sustainability was an important step in sustaining air quality in the Alamo City through commitments pledged by numerous leaders in the business community. Prominent guests in the field of energy, transportation and the environment spoke to a packed room of attendees at the Norris Conference Center in support of the Breathe Today SA Tomorrow campaign. The focus of this first-time event was to address the potential impact of nonattainment on businesses and how it is possible to pivot to advance economic growth while simultaneously maintaining air quality standards for the well-being of residents.
Jimmy Holmes, market president and publisher of the San Antonio Business Journal served as master of ceremonies, and speakers and vendors locally and regionally were in attendance to educate patrons about ozone levels, smog and environment conservation, as well as provide tools and resources for businesses to use in their daily operations. Companies represented at the podium included City Public Service, Via Metropolitan Transit, the Alamo Area Council of Governments, Texas Aggregates and Concrete Association and LyondellBasell.
LET’S CLEAR THE AIR
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg was the featured speaker and advised he’s not one to wait on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Knowing that the agency has not issued air quality standards by its October 1 deadline, and knowing that Texas Governor Greg Abbott asked EPA Administrator Pruitt to delay designation for San Antonio, Nirenberg said he’s compelled to move forward to keep San Antonio the largest clean air city in the nation; insight he shared here.
Environmental activism is not new to the mayor, having served as chairman of the Alamo Area Council of Governments. The City Council and Bexar County share the mayor’s support for this issue. Approval for $125,000 in funding for air quality programs for the 2018 fiscal year is expected to be approved by local officials in the near future, which is a slight relief considering Governor Abbott vetoed funding for other programs. On a national level, Administrator Pruitt recently announced his plan to repeal the Clean Power Plan, which essentially favors oil and gas companies by not policing the release of pollutants, such as soot and mercury emitted into the air by coal-powered plants.
Locally, with monitor readings revealing air quality levels above the known standard, Mayor Nirenberg challenged area businesses to exceed expectations. He complimented leaders for running smart companies, and urged them to take a strategic outlook on the issue, and start with the premise of clean air and a healthy economy. He warned there were no quick fixes, and that the road to improving air quality will take some uncompromising decisions from everyone.
He reminded attendees that the residential population will grow to one and a half-million residents within the next three decades, and that today’s youth are the workforce of tomorrow, so air quality is not only important for us today but for our future community. Public health is what matters and the choices we make today will impact the future. Regardless of the standard and the naysayers, it’s important for San Antonio to be better than it is today.
CONTRIBUTIONS FROM THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY
Support for the Air Quality Summit included Platinum Sponsor, Via Metropolitan Transit, Silver Sponsor, CPS Energy and event partners Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, Alamo Area Council of Governments, Build SA Green, Texas Aggregates and Concrete Association and San Antonio 2030 District. Numerous business leaders in attendance pledged in writing to support air quality in an effort to positively impact the community’s health, climate and local economy. Action steps include, but are not limited to:
- Provide regular maintenance on fleet vehicles.
- Provide space for employees to store food and eat at work.
- Communicate Ozone Action Days to employees.
- Participate in a carpool subsidy program for employees.
- Offer compressed and alternative work schedules.
- Adopt alternative energy (solar panels, windtricity, solar choice program).
- Provide preferred parking space for carpool vehicles.
- Secure on-site bicycle parking.
- Transit subsidy (VIA bus passes).
The City’s Office of Sustainability continues to receive commitments from area businesses promising to take one of the measures listed above to improve air quality. Your company is invited to take the pledge and commit to implementing at least one action step to improve air quality for the longevity of public health. When your business takes the online pledge, not only are you demonstrating your support for public health and economic growth, it’s a testament to your interest in helping San Antonio be resilient, sustainable and forward-thinking.