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Underfunded Texas Emission Reduction Plan Doesn’t Go Far Enough to Clean up the Air

April 4, 2003

Underfunded Texas Emission Reduction Plan Doesn’t Go Far Enough to Clean up the Air

Bill Set for Debate Monday in Texas House Would Ensure That Biggest Polluters Pay Fair Share to Clear the Air


AUSTIN – A bill to be considered Monday by state lawmakers would remedy the Texas Emission Reduction Plan’s (TERP) funding problems but should be amended to assure that the air clean up program can be approved by EPA, Texas consumer and environmental groups said today.

Through the bill (H.B. 1365), introduced by Rep. Dennis Bonnen, chairman of the House Committee on Environmental Regulation, money to pay for the plan’s goals – cleaning up old and dirty diesel engines, would be raised through fees paid by polluters.

The federal government is requiring Texas to clean up its air because of the serious health implications of its pollution. Texas economist Ray Perryman has recently estimated that poor air quality costs the state between $6-13 billion annually in health care costs.

State courts have suspended 80 percent of the TERP’s funding. The EPA will not approve the Houston and Dallas/Fort Worth clean air plans unless the TERP is fully funded. If the TERP continues to operate with less than 20 percent of its budget, it will be unlikely that the Austin and San Antonio areas will meet their air quality goals. That is why the bill, which would raise $150 million annually, is so important.

“Polluters should pay their fair share to clear up Texas air. Most of the money raised by the TERP program is for cleaning up dirty diesel engines, so it’s fair that diesel users pay for the program through a fee on fuels and the sale or lease of diesel equipment,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office. “Rep. Bonnen has worked very hard to ensure that the funds to clean up diesel emissions come from diesel users. He has worked to ensure that we are funding the research and development of new technologies needed in our struggle to clear the air in our cities.”

However, lawmakers should amend H.B. 1365 so that provisions weakening our air plan such as gutting the Texas Low Emission Diesel (LED) fuel standard and other important emission reduction programs, will not be signed into law, Smith said.

“These air pollution plans are like a checking account; you can’t withdraw a program without adding another to keep a minimum balance,” Smith said. “Rep. Bonnen’s bill eliminates many of the programs that the state promised to implement to start cleaning the air and doesn’t replace them with other reductions.”

For instance, the bill eliminates the Texas clean diesel program, which the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality estimated would eliminate 10 to 16 tons of NOx per day in east Texas. It prohibits the TCEQ from lowering speed limits, which would eliminate 12 tons of NOx in Houston and 5 tons of NOx per day in the DFW area per day. It also eliminates funding for energy efficiency and a clean car incentive program.

The bill would eliminate the Texas LED fuel standard and substitute a federal ultra-low sulfur diesel standard. “The Texas LED fuel standard is vital to the Houston and Dallas/Fort Worth clean air plans,” said John Wilson of the Greater Houston Association for Smog Prevention (GHASP). “It would result in NOx emission reductions in the Houston area of 6.7 tons per day and 4 tons per day in Dallas/Fort Worth. The Texas LED has a higher level of cetane than the federal ultra-low sulfur diesel so it ignites at a lower heat of compression, reducing the amount of NOx produced during combustion.

“Repealing the Texas LED would immediately increase the need for Texas to identify and adopt additional pollution control measures, require the EPA to sanction Texas for ‘failure to implement’ its federally approved plan, and trigger the loss of federal highway funds,” said Wilson.

In addition to restoring the programs that the bill would eliminate, lawmakers should amend the bill to further reduce pollution, the groups said. Lawmakers should restore the Texas clean diesel fuel standard, allow cities to adopt green building standards, reduce the urban heat island, toughen appliance standards and change contracting laws so that cities and counties could require contractors to use equipment that has been retrofitted with pollution control devices.

“Creating the TERP was a good first step toward cleaning the air over our cities. Now it’s time for the Texas legislature to fully fund the programs and develop the next round of programs that will clear our air,” Smith said.