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Not long ago, a good friend living in a very small West Texas town told me a funny story. A Google Street View car came through Main Street in his town. As a City Councilman, he thought it would be nice if Google Earth street view would cover more than just the one street. The town only consists of a couple blocks on either side of Main, and less than 10 blocks long. I just visited him and can tell you that the additional effort for that Google driver might have taken 15 minutes to map essentially the entire town. He flagged down the driver and asked her about this. She said she couldn’t speak to him or alter her plan. While that may seem Draconian – I actually understand why she is required to stay on task and on-schedule.

In New York, though, there is even more reason for Google drivers to stay focused. According to Inside Climate News, Google Street View drivers across 10 regions of New York State are collecting air quality data from a fleet of 21 modified vehicles. The cars monitor the

“…presence and concentrations of fine particulate matter (PM 2.5), nitrogen dioxide, ozone, carbon monoxide, methane, carbon dioxide, black carbon and benzene, among other pollutants. Then, the attached wireless network sends the data to the West Coast to be analyzed [by California-based tech company Aclima].” 

This data is likely to be used in numerous ways from policy development to evidence in environmental justice claims and regulatory enforcement actions. The effort is part of a statewide air quality and greenhouse gas mobile monitoring initiative announced this summer by Governor Kathy Hochul, but I expect similar programs to pop up across the country as a result of the Inflation Reduction Act’s provisions for funding new state GHG monitoring and environmental justice programs.

Be on the look out for cars with “I measure air quality” stickers on them driving past your company’s operating locations. Before then, however, you should consider taking a close look at the emissions inventory, permit status and systems for monitoring fence line air quality at your various locations. Facilities with Title V air emissions permits could face heightened risk related to annual compliance certifications in the event air quality data from a mobile monitoring system seems inconsistent with the reported compliance status. Now might be a good time to have a third party air emissions compliance audit – before potentially facing the myriad of risks that could come from mobile air quality monitoring data. That is probably far worse than having your picture on Google Earth Street View while getting your mail in a robe.

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The Editor

Lawrence Heim has been practicing in the field of ESG management for almost 40 years. He began his career as a legal assistant in the Environmental Practice of Vinson & Elkins working for a partner who is nationally recognized and an adjunct professor of environmental law at the University of Texas Law School. He moved into technical environmental consulting with ENSR Consulting & Engineering at the height of environmental regulatory development, working across a range of disciplines. He was one… View Profile