March 3, 2003
Make Polluters Pay Their Fair Share for Texas Emissions Reduction Plan
Statement of Tom “Smitty” Smith, Director, Public Citizen’s Texas Office
The passage of legislation funding the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP) is an essential step toward cleaning up our air, but diesel users should pay their fair share. Under TERP, they receive more than 60 percent of the money generated by the program so they can clean up the oldest and dirtiest engines. However, the current plan, according to press reports, is to transfer the cost of cleaning up diesel engines to auto and light truck users. The funding proposal includes:
- A $250 fee per car on newcomers to Texas. It is unfair to ask newcomers to pay to clean up an air quality problem they didn’t create.
- A $6 per engine fossil fuel impact fee on each vehicle registered in Texas. This is unfair because the dirtiest engines are in off-road equipment, such as bulldozers or cranes, which don’t have license plates.
The environmental community has a better and more fair plan that assures that the users of the dirtiest equipment pay the most to clear the air. It would raise about $170 million each year, and those who would benefit the most would pay the most for the program. The program calls for assessing a 5-cent-per-gallon fee on
diesel fuel based on sulfur content (at the wholesale level). This fee would raise $150 million each year. The plan also calls for assessing variable auto registration fees based on emissions of new cars. This would average $11 per new vehicle and eventually raise $20 million.
Even if TERP is fully funded, though, it won’t be enough to clear the air in our cities. We must come up with new and creative ways to reduce air pollution. TERP needs three additional amendments. First, the House environmental regulation committee should improve – and not eliminate – the existing clean car program by giving incentives to people who buy hybrids. Second, the committee should expand the state’s energy efficiency program to ensure that cities, builders and homeowners receive pollution credits for increasing energy efficiency and investing in renewable energy. The committee also should reduce the urban heat island effect by requiring businesses and government agencies to use “cool” or heat reflecting roofs. Third, the state should inspect diesel engines not just in Texas but along the border to ensure that their emission controls work. State Rep. Jerry Madden has filed a bill that would require emission controls inspections for diesel trucks throughout Texas, however it does not go far enough. Funding and fixing TERP will go a long way to clearing the air in our cities.