The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required to set air quality standards pursuant to the Clean Air Act. For ozone, the EPA has set the standard for ambient air at 75 parts per billion (ppb). San Antonio registers an ozone level as high as 87 ppb, well over the EPA’s set limit.
The state of Texas is funding a study to determine the cause of air pollution in San Antonio and much of it is expected to be blamed on the shale boom in the Eagle Ford region. San Antonio’s problems with air pollution began in 2007 and skyrocketed higher in 2011, when the Eagle Ford Shale development also exploded.
Oil and gas exploration and production sites have long been none to produce ozone-forming emissions. Pennsylvania, Colorado and Wyoming have all had issues with meeting air quality standards in the wake of booms in their respective communities.
Heightened ozone levels can cause respiratory problems, especially in children and older adults. At certain concentrations, ground-produced ozone can actually burn lung tissue causing permanent damage.
The results of the study are expected in December. Although many are already convinced that the Eagle Ford Shale boom is the culprit in the rising ozone air contamination issue, population growth and increased use of transit have been correlated to ozone level increases as well. The EPA is expected to tighten ozone standards in the near future, meaning that by the time San Antonio solves this air contamination issue, it will be facing down another similar one.
Source: New America Media, “Is Texas’s Ozone Problem Linked to Fracking?,” October 25, 2013