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article imageCity of Austin sides with barbecue joints on smoke emission

By Karen Graham     Aug 8, 2015 in Environment
Austin - There are some foods here in America people just know not to mess with, like Maryland crab cakes. When some residents in Austin, Texas complained about the smoke from BBQ restaurants being an environmental hazard, things really heated up.
Austin, Texas, with 912,791 or so residents, is the capital of the Lone Star State, and the fourth largest city in the South. The city claims to be "The Live Music Capital of the World," and is well known for its barbecue, or should we say, Texas barbecue.
You can bet your bottom dollar that if you live anywhere in Austin, you will probably be downwind from a barbecue joint. You won't have to know the address because all you have to do is follow the sweet and heady smell of meat encased in mesquite smoke and it will lead you right to the door.
While having great Texas BBQ is everything it's cracked up to be, living downwind from smoke emissions all day and evening is not some people's idea of residential bliss. Neighbors living near two BBQ restaurants in Austin, Terry Black’s Barbecue and La Barbecue, filed a complaint with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
In the complaint, the neighbors cited the potential health risks and the inability to enjoy their own property because of the smoke emitted from the barbecue businesses. The move prompted Council-member “Pio” Renteria in March to introduce a resolution to create an amendment to the city code that would require restaurants and street-food vendors to reduce smoke emissions near residential areas.
This made sense, especially because Austin is known as the "clean-air city" for the city's stringent no-smoking ordinances that apply to all public places and buildings, including restaurants and bars. They take their environmental responsibilities to heart in that way.
Cigarette smoke is one thing, but two committees on the Austin City Council, perhaps feeling that an attack on Texas BBQ was hitting a little too close to home, shot the proposal down. On Thursday, the Health and Human Services Committee voted 4–0 to not pursue a citywide policy that would mitigate barbecue smoke, as did the Economic Opportunity Committee back in May.
It was decided that complaints about smoke would be handled on an individual case-by-case basis. Skeeter Miller, President of the Austin Restaurant Association, told local NBC affiliate KXAN, “To make all BBQ places put this in would crush the industry and put a lot of people out of work.”
A member of Austin City Council's Health and Human Services committee said the issue may have to be revisited later, but meanwhile, restaurants are looking at ways to reduce the smoke individually.
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