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Texas AG asks court to reconsider EPA's designation of Bexar County as 'non-attainment' area

Non-attainment designation could cost Bexar County 'hundreds of millions'

SAN ANTONIO – Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Monday filed a petition against the Environmental Protection Agency, asking that the court reconsider the EPA's non-attainment designation against Bexar County.

The non-attainment designation indicates that Bexar County failed to meet federal air quality standards. Such a designation would impose sanctions against the county that could cause a multimillion-dollar economic impact on the county.

Paxton said if the EPA's designation was allowed to stand, it "would impose an unwarranted financial burden on the Texas economy with minimal, if any, public health benefit."

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff told KSAT in July the designation "will cost Bexar County residents hundreds of millions of dollars. The EPA ignored a long track record of improving air quality in Bexar County. We are extremely disappointed and will examine every possible remedy."

Earlier this year, the Alamo Area Council of Governments hired a firm to conduct a study on the possible effects non-attainment could have on the city.

The following are possible outcomes of non-attainment status:

1.) Stricter regulations for businesses in industries such as mining, utilities, quarry, oil and gas and crematories would be forced to get new permits, which cost up to $250,000 each. That could have a total impact of almost $14 million on Bexar County.

2.) Getting those new permits could take up to one year, which would delay many projects, leading to a possible $997 million impact.

3.) It could dissuade companies from coming or expanding to San Antonio, which could have an impact of up to $7 billion on Bexar County.

The air quality just fell short of the ozone standard that is part of the health-based National Ambient Air Quality Standards, according to a city news release. The designation comes despite substantive progress San Antonio and the surrounding communities have made over the last several years to reduce air emissions.

"The EPA air quality designation is no surprise," Mayor Ron Nirenberg said in July. "The science showed clearly for several years that our region has been teetering on the edge of nonattainment because of stricter federal standards. As this designation loomed, we made great progress in achieving better air quality, and we will continue to strive for cleaner air. The region's ozone levels are down significantly from where they were a decade ago."

Bexar County is one of eight counties including, Atascosa, Bandera, Guadalupe, Comal, Kendall and Medina that is affected by the EPA's designation.

“The ozone rule will force costly regulations on a number of Texas counties,” Paxton said. “We are continually and successfully reducing ambient ozone concentrations without stifling economic or population growth, and we will continue to do so without the EPA’s overreaching regulations.”