JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas –
Air quality may not be something you think about daily, but it is vastly important to everyone’s health and safety and requires multiple efforts to ensure it is a priority, particularly in the Alamo Region and at Joint Base San Antonio.
According to recent data, Bexar County, which includes JBSA, is in exceedance of ground-level ozone standards, the most common form of air pollution in the region, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA.
According to the EPA, Ground-level ozone forms when Nitrogen Oxides, like those from burning fossil fuels in combustion engines, combine with Volatile Organic Compounds in the air and sunlight to make ozone.
“Sunlight causes chemicals from the fuels we burn, gasoline and diesel, and vapors from such products as gasoline and paint solvents to react together and form ozone,” according to the Alamo Area Council of Governments, or AACOG, Natural Resources Department.
The work toward correcting the issue will involve effort by everyone in the region, including JBSA, the Department of Defense’s largest joint base, which already has multiple initiatives in place to assist in lowering emissions in the region. These include the utilization of alternative fuel vehicles and enacting policies to help limit emissions from things like vehicle idling.
“Vehicle Management across the Air Force is mandated to always lean toward purchasing alternative fuel, low greenhouse gas non-tactical vehicles for our daily transportation movement,” said Dennis Stewart, chief of Fuels and property administrator at JBSA-Randolph.
Currently on JBSA, the JBSA-Fort Sam Houston’s vehicle fleet is 21.9 percent alternative fuel vehicles, JBSA-Lackland's fleet is 15 percent, and JBSA-Randolph's fleet is 34.4 percent.
“While these percentages may look uncommonly low, they are due to JBSA being the largest Air Force training base,” said Master Sgt. Thomas Ocampo, 502nd Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle fleet manager.
“Most of our vehicles are assigned to field training, which require specific type vehicles which are not manufactured to use alternative fuel,” he said, adding that the majority of alternative fuel vehicles are normally light duty vehicles, like sedans, minivans to 15 passenger vans and three passenger pickup trucks.
Currently, JBSA has 129 E-85 use vehicles; 99 hybrid sedans; 306 dual fuel vehicles which can utilize gas or E-85; 24 electric forklifts; and 42 other electric vehicles, water buffalo, semi-vans or trailers, Ocampo said.
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 also states, if alternative fuel is available for an Air Force owned, rented or leased alternate fueled vehicle from a commercial vendor fuel station or another agency, then alternative fuel will be used 100 percent of the time, Ocampo said.
The remaining fleet category includes vehicles manufactured for regular gasoline or diesel fuel because they do not come as alternative fuel due to the nature of their constructed use, Ocampo said, adding that some vehicles on JBSA are unable to utilize alternative fuels because they are deployable and must be capable of meeting worldwide mission requirements.
While the Energy Policy Act of 1992 exempts most law enforcement vehicles, emergency vehicles and vehicles used for military purposes, JBSA emergency diesel vehicles do utilize diesel exhaust fluid, or DEF, which eliminates harmful emissions from these vehicles, as required, according to Mike Pena, vehicle control officer for JBSA Fire and Emergency Services.
Diesel exhaust fluid is a non-hazardous solution which is sprayed into the exhaust stream of diesel vehicles to break down dangerous emissions into harmless nitrogen and water, he said.
Vehicle idling restrictions have also been enacted to help curb harmful emissions in Texas and at JBSA.
In an effort to assist with Texas’ rules on vehicle idling, Brig. Gen. Caroline Miller, 502d Air Base Wing and Joint Base San Antonio commander, signed a policy reiterating the requirement to limit the use of vehicle idling as pertaining to government motor vehicles.
In accordance with Texas code, no person shall cause, suffer, allow, or permit the primary propulsion engine of a motor vehicle to idle for more than five consecutive minutes when the motor vehicle is not in motion.
“Due to this state law, all operators of Government and GSA vehicles will be limited to standing idle times of five minutes or less,” according to the JBSA policy. An exception, in light of the number of trainees transported on JBSA, buses are permitted to idle for 20 minutes prior to dispatch in order to run the air conditioner or heater under extreme hot or cold weather conditions. Rapid response vehicles, law enforcement or ambulatory services vehicles are exempt when responding to emergencies or in the direct performance of traffic stops, speed control, or for patient recovery and comfort during summer and winter months.
Additional ways most anyone can assist in lowering emissions, according to AACOG, include:
Limit driving by utilizing carpools, use mass transit, teleconference, walk, ride a bike, and use online services such as electronic banking;
Operate your vehicle properly: avoid jack rabbit starts and drive the speed limit;
Area residents may visit the AirNow.gov website for current air quality conditions in San Antonio and Bexar County.