If city doesn't make adjustments to clean up air, taxpayers may end up paying for it

Smog tests may be required if city is given moderate status by EPA

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio is getting serious about coming clean with its air.

The Environmental Protection Agency recently designated the city as “non-attainment,” meaning the air pollution quality is not up to standards. 

Chief Sustainability Officer Doug Melnick said the city needs to make adjustments to meet requirements or taxpayers could end up paying for it.

“If we do not come back into attainment in three years, we would be moved up to the next category, which is moderate, which requires a vehicle inspection and maintenance program,” he said.

Houston, Dallas and Austin have vehicle emissions testing. Currently, 17 counties in the state require emissions testing.

In Houston, the test costs drivers about $25.

Doug said the city has been exploring the program and costs associated with this requirement for about two years.

“We want to make sure the cost that goes into a program, and it is considerable” he said. “It requires having certified inspection sites throughout the city — there's cost for those sites — getting the necessary equipment and start running options, cost to our residents and businesses who would need to pay to have the registration and the emissions testing done.”

Vincent Owns, an automotive technician, said the requirement would be costly for San Antonians.

“A lot of the cars on the road could require major maintenance, which could cost in the thousands,” Owns said.

Startup costs for shops to run the emissions tests could also be in the thousands, Owns.

“It’s not just the old cars having a hard time passing the emissions test. It’s going to be the newer cars also,” Owns said.

He urged people to maintain their vehicles regularly, use the more efficient and, oftentimes, more expensive gas and keep tires properly inflated to help reduce smog pollution.

The non-attainment status requires new companies coming into the county and larger manufacturing companies to get new air pollution permits. 

“This is a big deal, and it’s going to really take all sectors and all people to work on this,” Melnick said. “It needs to be something that everyone is not taking for granted, really making a connection between their actions and our air quality.”

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