EPA Set to Approve Dallas-Fort Worth Clean Air Plan

DALLAS, Texas, July 3, 2008 (ENS) – With more than $100 million in funding from two state programs, the smoggy air of the Dallas-Fort Worth area has been cleared to the point that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this week announced its proposed approval of the area’s clean air plan.

Tuesday, the regional EPA gathered local and state partners to publicize the fact that Dallas-Fort Worth is the first community with a clean air plan that has been proposed for approval that meets the 8-hour federal health-based standard for ground-level ozone by 2010.

Under the proposed plan, ozone forming pollutants will be reduced by 88 tons per day – about 40 tons more than the plan had first proposed.

Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Chairman Buddy Garcia and EPA Regional Administrator Richard Greene joined with community leaders and businesses within the nine county non-attainment area to strengthen the original plan.

“That work – a result of the North Texas can-do spirit – has moved this clean air plan across the goal line and makes it the first in the nation to gain EPA’s proposal for approval,” Greene said.

The Dallas-Fort Worth area currently does not meet the federal air quality standard for ozone, a harmful air pollutant. Ozone forms when emissions from sources such as vehicles and industry mix with sunlight. On-road and off-road vehicles and equipment make up about 70 percent of the ozone sources in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

The air is clearing over Dallas-Fort
Worth as older, polluting vehicles
are replaced or retrofitted.
(Photo by Luis Tamayo)

The proposed clean air plan will improve air quality by more than 55 percent over 1999 levels, Greene said. The new plan in combination with previous plans will result in a reduction of 409 tons per day of ozone pollution.

“Today’s announcement shows that once again Texas leads the nation in developing and implementing innovative programs that reduce air pollution and improve air quality for all citizens,” said Garcia.

The nine county area in northern Texas that in the past has not attained federal benchmarks even under the old 1-hour ozone standard is now in compliance with that earlier standard through the success of its previous air quality plans, Greene said.

The plan could not have come about without the efforts of local and state partners and over $100 million in funding.

Dallas-Fort Worth has captured more dollars than other areas in the state from the popular voluntary Texas Emission Reduction Plan, known as TERP. In the last six months, the Dallas-Fort Worth area beat out all other areas, two to one, with a record-setting $84 million in applications from the $110 million TERP grant budget.

These funds apply to projects to reduce emissions of smog-forming nitrogen oxides from high-emitting mobile diesel sources; rebate grants for diesel on-road and non-road replacement and repower projects; and the clean school bus program of retrofits to reduce emissions of diesel exhaust, among others.

As much as 14 tons per day of pollution could be cut through the replacement and retrofit of old diesel engines, state and federal officials estimate.

AirCheckTexas brought another $21 million to North Texas to repair and replace older vehicles which typically produce more emissions than newer models.

“From the outset our phones were ringing off the hook. People were very interested in this incentive program,” said Executive Director Mike Eastland who heads the North Central Texas Council of Governments, or NCTCOG. “Within the first hour, we realized that the funding available for these projects was going to be used up very rapidly.”

“North Texas’ success with AirCheckTexas is exactly what we expected,” said Ellis County Judge Chad Adams, immediate past president of the NCTCOG. “When 6.5 million people benefit from an idea, things change. We are seeing a lot of changes in the way North Texas is tackling clean air.”

Other industry sectors also contributed to the area’s clean air effort.

The aviation industry helped by refining estimates of their operations’ pollution emissions. New accurate information allowed EPA and Texas air quality modeling experts to certify pollution reductions totaling almost 10 tons per day from the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport and Love Field.

Power plants in the nine county non-attainment area all are subject to the strictest air pollution controls required for either commercial or municipal power plants in the country.

New regulations on back-up generators used by business and industry provided for some air quality improvements, about one ton per day.

Now, the Dallas-Fort Worth clean air plan, referred to as the State Implementation Plan, or SIP, will be published in the Federal Register for public review and comment after July 7.

“Our goal from day one was to encourage everyone to join an effort to bring clean air to the Dallas-Fort Worth area sooner than expected,” said Greene. “Had the SIP not been approvable, it would have resulted in years-long delays in getting the types of pollutant controls now being put in place.”

The EPA says it will consider “all relevant information” submitted during the 30-day comment period and may modify its decision to approve the plan based on new information.

For more information on the Dallas-Fort Worth clean air plan, click here [www.epa.gov].

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