October 03, 2008
Someday, I hope we have clean air

According to the Chron, we may have to wait a little longer than we originally thought for that.

At the request of Gov. Rick Perry, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday granted the eight-county Houston region an extra nine years to meet federal health standards for smog-forming ozone by formally classifying the problem as "severe."

The long-awaited decision ties Houston to Los Angeles in an unenviable way -- they are the only two places in the nation with a severe smog problem, according to the EPA.

Ozone is formed when emissions from tailpipes and smokestacks mix with sunlight. The toxic, colorless gas can damage the lungs, cause headaches and nausea and aggravate asthma.

Houston's car-dependent lifestyle, large concentration of industry and weather give the area one of the nation's longest smog seasons. Still, the EPA had classified the region's problem as "moderate" with a 2010 deadline for compliance.

In its ruling, the EPA deferred to the governor's request, saying that states have the right to volunteer for a higher classification. The new deadline is June 2019.


The request surprised some local officials, business leaders and environmentalists because Perry asked for a "double bump" in classification. They preferred a move from "moderate" to "serious" in classification and a corresponding 2013 deadline for compliance.

A recent state analysis showed that 18 of the region's 22 air-pollution monitors would achieve the standard by 2010, but two -- in Bayland Park and Deer Park -- would need until 2018 or later to get there.

I suppose changing the designation and the deadline really just makes it seem like the goal of clean air is farther away now. If it was going to take that long, it didn't matter how it was classified. I'm moderately curious as to why there wasn't a comment from Mayor White's office on this, since air quality has been a signature issue of his. If he decides this is BS, the story gets a lot more interesting, given the possibility of White versus Perry for the Governor's mansion. Let's see if there's a followup.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 03, 2008 to Elsewhere in Houston

The difference is that now there is no interim date - 2013 - by which you could accelerate progress even if you wanted to with another clean-up plan.

This is to protect industry from having to invest in any more control technology. Perry thinks that all the fuel and engine reforms in the next few years will make all our air pollution problems disappear.

Perry threatened the EPA with the DFW clean air plan the same way - either take the inadeqaute plan we're agreeing to or we walk away and take a bump up til 2018. If EPA and local leaders wanted to make ANY progress, they had to agree to this bad air blackmail.

Unfortunately, the state is in charge of the federal Clean Air Act in Texas by agreement and as long as Rick Perry is in office, that means it's not really enforced.

Posted by: Brown Bess on October 3, 2008 11:53 AM
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