Many of us are vowing to lose weight, spend less or quit smoking in 2011. This is a time when we evaluate the previous 12 months of our lives and look for opportunities to become better people. There is no doubt that Texas air quality could be better. With our state ranking at the top of every bad list on air quality, improvement is necessary. As I finished my own resolutions I imagined what some of our federal and state leaders’ could be – in a perfect world:
- Environmental Protection Agency: In 2011, we resolve to adopt more health-protective standards, especially with regard to ozone. More than half of our country’s population is exposed to this harmful air pollutant, with levels regularly exceeding current federal standards in many large cities. We will no longer delay implementation of a stronger standard. The Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee reviewed the data during two presidential administrations and recommended a stricter standard each time. As American Thoracic Society President Dr. Dean Schraufnagel commented, “The time for review is over. It’s time to make a decision.” We agree. Like we did after strengthening the standards for nitrogen dioxide in 2010, we will also site more monitors in more locations to help protect our most sensitive populations in 2011.
- Texas Commission on Environmental Quality: In 2011, we resolve to withdraw our fight against EPA, instilling new confidence among facilities wanting to comply with healthier regulations, and saving taxpayers thousands of dollars in lawsuits. We will listen to comments from the environmental community and work to engage in more constructive dialogue with our stakeholders and citizens around the state. We resolve to adopt rules combating emissions from sources known to be a problem, such as upset emissions events and runaway gas flaring. Our commissioners and executives resolve to no longer play politics with Texas air and health standards and commit to following at least the federal minimums on air quality.
- 82nd Texas Legislature: In 2011, we resolve to confirm recommendations from the Sunset Advisory Commission, which will help improve state environmental agency processes. We resolve to adopt legislation protecting all Texas citizens, especially our most vulnerable populations, from harmful air emissions.
None of this will be possible if as Texans, we don’t commit to becoming more involved and educated on air pollution. We must demand more from our state leaders and from ourselves. Otherwise, for those of us resolving to live a healthier 2011, it will all be for naught if we don’t have clean air to breathe.