The Williamson County Commissioners Court committed up to $45,706 to the Capital Area Council of Governments Air Quality Program for air-quality data monitors during a May 14 meeting.
Williamson County hosts two of CAPCOG’s eight ozone monitors in Central Texas. The monitors work to determine air quality through air pollution and meteorological data and help determine ground-level ozone standards, county officials said.
The county is at risk of violating federal air-quality standards, which would devastate the economy because it curtails business growth, county officials said. Once designated as “non-attainment” by the Environmental Protection Agency’s ground-level ozone standard, it takes several years to reach attainment again, they said.
“The goal is to keep our air clean,” Precinct 1 Commissioner Terry Cook said. “Let us breathe, and let us keep growing.”
The monitors are Texas Commission on Environmental Quality-approved and are located at Lake Georgetown and near the City of Hutto, said Andrew Hoekzema, CAPCOG Regional Planning and Services interim director.
The state previously funded the monitors through grants beginning in 2002, but in 2017, Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed the program, leading local governing entities to pick up the tab and continue the program if they wished to remain in attainment, Precinct 2 Commissioner Cynthia Long said.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Valerie Covey said the monitors allow the county to keep accurate data, which is important because it affects which roads can be built and which projects completed.
“Once you get on [non-attainment] you never get off, and it costs a whole lot more to the taxpayers,” Covey said. “That’s why we’re diligent in making sure these monitors are counted and continue to fund them so they can continue to give us information.”
The committed funding by the court will be a part of the fiscal year 2019-20 budget.
Hoekzema said the monitors will remain in their location—a stability necessary to maintain accurate information—and that CAPCOG intends to keep the monitors until at least 2023. He added that if the monitors needed to be moved he would seek county approval.
“It’s an insurance policy,” Hoekzema said.