EPA Proposes to OK DFW Air Quality Plan

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced its proposed approval of the Dallas-Fort Worth clean air, or state implementation, plan recently. The agency also announced that the area achieved the previous 1-hour ozone standard through the success of earlier plans.

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 Chair Buddy Garcia and Regional Administrator Richard Greene joined with community leaders and businesses within the nine county non-attainment areas 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 clean air plan will improve air quality by more than 55 percent over 1999 levels. The plan, in combination with previous plans, is resulting in a total of 409 tons per day of ozone pollution reduction. 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 ozone by 2010.

Of note is the North Texas effort to capture more dollars from the popular Texas Emission Reduction Plan, known as TERP, last spring. In the last six months, the DFW area beat out all other areas, two to one, with a record-setting $84 million in applications from the $110-million grant budget. Another funding opportunity is planned for this fall. As much as 14 tons per day of pollution could be cut through the replacement and retrofit of old diesel engines.

TERP provides financial assistance to offset the incremental costs associated with reducing emissions of nitrogen oxides from heavy-duty diesel engines. The program serves as a national model for replacing and retrofitting older diesel engines and is managed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

AirCheckTexas brought another $21 million to North Texas to repair and replace older vehicles that typically produce more emissions than newer models. This fall, another $21 million will be available to the DFW area from AirCheckTexas. The AirCheckTexas Drive a Clean Machine Program is designed to help car owners comply with ozone emissions standards. It targets the highest polluting vehicles by offering financial incentives to repair or remove them from roadways, and allows citizens to contribute to the regional air quality solution.

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

Working with the NCTCOG, Dallas-Fort Worth Airport and Love Field joined the campaign for clean air 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.

North Texas also is leading the nation to reduce pollution from 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. Texas also committed to restrict the amount of pollution credits, technically referred to as Discrete Emission Reduction Credits or DERCs, cutting pollution by 17 tons a day.

New regulations on back-up generators used by business and industry provided for some air quality improvements, about 1 ton per day. Other measures improved information used by EPA modeling experts in evaluating the plan. Better inventories of gas compressors showed their widespread use and resulted in an increase of three tons per day. New regulations adopted to control emissions from gas compressor engines will further improve air quality in the region.

"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 (state implementation plan) not been approvable, it would have resulted in years-long delays in getting the types of pollutant controls now being put in place."

The SIP will be published in the Federal Register for public review and comment. EPA 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.

EPA's proposed approval is conditional. Texas must finalize regulations to formally reduce the amount of discrete emission credits available in the nine county non-attainment area.

The Dallas-Fort Worth area currently does not meet the federal air quality standard for ozone, which is a harmful air pollutant.

For more information, visit http://www.epa.gov/region6.

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