Why do they call you Smokey Joe, Congressman Barton?
U.S. Rep. Joe Barton wants to include a provision in upcoming energy legislation allowing Dallas-Fort Worth and other smoggy regions of the country to miss deadlines mandating compliance with federal ozone standards.
Dallas-Fort Worth faces a 2010 deadline to comply with ozone regulations or face severe sanctions, including the potential loss of hundreds of millions in federal highway transportation dollars.
The proposal being pushed by Barton, R-Ennis, would allow the federal Environmental Protection Agency to extend deadlines in areas that can prove they're affected by pollution that blows in from other cities and states.
Dallas-Fort Worth officials have long claimed that pollution from Louisiana, and even from Houston 250 miles to the southeast, is at least partly to blame for the region's poor air quality.
Barton's Energy and Commerce Committee is expected this month to begin debating the controversial energy bill, which has been stalled in Congress the past two years. The deadline extension proposal is included in a "discussion draft" that Barton's committee will use to craft a formal bill for the full House to consider.
The deadline extension option would provide breathing room for regional leaders struggling to lower Metroplex ozone -- among the worst in the nation.
This marks the fourth time Barton has proposed legislative action to allow extending the ozone-compliance deadlines, according to his office.
Larry Neal, Barton's spokesman, defended the proposal. In a written statement, he said Barton believes that it has bipartisan support and that the issue has not "prevented the bill from becoming law."