If there’s one thing businesses can do to better the region’s air quality, it’s reduce vehicle emissions.That was the overall message from a panel of experts at a joint luncheon on April 4. The chambers of commerce from Colleyville, Grapevine and Southlake partnered to bring in experts and discuss the area’s air quality with city leaders and business owners at the Colleyville Center in Colleyville. Four panelists spoke to the crowd of 175 people about their organizations’ responsibilities, the current state of the environment and what’s being done to make improvements.David Garcia, acting director for the Multimedia Planning and Permitting Division of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 6 office in Dallas, said that ozone levels remain D/FW’s largest challenge.A large amount of ozone can cause respiratory problems, especially in children and the elderly, he said. Another name for ozone is smog, which is basically ground-level ozone.Currently, D/FW’s ozone levels are at 87 parts per billion and don’t meet federal standards of 75 parts per billion.He told the audience that the smog in China is so bad that people wear oxygen mask outdoors and stressed the importance of enforcing regulations and meeting standards.“Without regulation, we could end up like China,” he said.But the news isn’t all bad. Garcia said regulation and an informed community has allowed ozone levels to decrease, even with a population that’s been consistently growing in the past 30 years. He said the goal is to have D/FW meet federal standards by 2018.All experts agreed that the place to start making improvements to the region’s air quality is with vehicle emissions.Vehicles are estimated to be the largest producers of ozone, making up 70 percent of the area’s pollution. This is especially true during ozone season, which started on March 1 and runs until Oct. 31. During this time of the year a variety of variables, like warmer weather, allow for increased production of ground-level ozone.“A lot of it has to do with vehicles. When we have those summer days and the wind is stale, there’s nowhere for pollution to go,” Garcia said.The speakers stressed trip reduction.Mindy Mize, program director for the North Central Texas Council of Governments, suggests businesses encourage carpooling and telecommuting.Tony Walker, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality D/FW Office director, chimed in.“Just doing proper maintenance on your fleet can make a difference,” he said.Dana Centola, Eco Team co-leader and senior sales support specialist with Sabre Holdings in Southlake, spoke about her company’s initiatives to go green. She suggested businesses encourage their employees to bring lunches rather than drive out for lunch, and stressed the importance of a good in-house cafeteria.She also said Sabre has electric car charging stations with prime parking spots. But in her mind, the biggest factor in going green is allowing employees to work from home.Guice Mercer, an information security consultant with Data Shredding Services in Grapevine, said even though his company is making strides at going green, he’s always interested in what else can be done.“It’s confirmation that we’re on the right track,” he said about what he learned from the luncheon.Through recycling, he said his company has saved more than 5,300 trees. He added that using route planning technology has allowed employees to drive smarter and reduce emissions.Event organizers said this was the first time they can remember that the councils partnered for a luncheon, but it’s the start of a new era of regionalism. Colleyville Mayor David Kelly said Grapevine Mayor William D. Tate were a major factor in getting the three communities together to discuss air quality. Tate supported that statement when he addressed the attendees.“Our boundaries sometimes seem to be imaginary,” he said, stressing the need to work together. “We have to in the future to make the region better. We’ve done a wonderful job turning our grass green, now we need to turn our skies blue.”“Air quality doesn’t have borders,” said Jenna Waters, Colleyville Chamber of Commerce president.
Dustin Dangli, 817-390-7770