Author Archives: Christina Wolfe

Wheels in motion for VW to compensate Texas for dirty air

Texas is set to receive $209 million as part of the legal settlement for Volkswagen’s decade-long scheme to cheat on diesel emissions tests in the United States and elsewhere. That is because the German automaker sold more than 40,000 non-compliant vehicles in the state, resulting in Texans breathing dirtier air.

The money is for projects that reduce smog-forming nitrogen oxides. It is in addition to civil penalties and other legal settlements, which include an agreement for the company to invest in zero-emission, all-electric vehicle technology and infrastructure.

For Texas, the road to cleaner air began in early October. Here are three steps the state needs to take:

  1. Secure funding

Before Texas can receive its share of the money, it must become a beneficiary of the trust, which was set up to compensate states for the emissions-cheating scandal. This first step is also the easiest. It is a paperwork exercise in advance of the hard decisions. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Clean school buses, Drayage, Electric Vehicles, Goods Movement, Ozone, Ports, TCEQ, Transportation| Comments are closed

Smoggier Skies in Texas? No Thanks, Washington!

Before leaving for summer recess, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill, H.R. 806, that would sideline public health protections by changing the Clean Air Act fundamentally and delay important air quality protections. This so-called by changing the required review by EPA of standards from the current 5-year interval to 10 years.

In Texas, several of our metro areas already fail the health-based standards for ozone, including the Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth regions. Now, some legislators in Washington, D.C., have put forward legislation that would put even more Texans at risk, since the new 2015 health-based ozone standard would likely have identified the San Antonio region, as well as Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth, as areas requiring new clean air actions be taken. The 2015 ozone air quality standard was put forward after a lengthy scientific evaluation process that involved many in the public health, medical, and scientific communities. Delaying these standards to 2025 means delaying commonsense measures that safeguard the air we breathe.

It’s no surprise that this bill was opposed by more than a dozen organizations in the medical and public health community, including the National Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Public Health Association and the American Thoracic Society. Health effects from ground-level ozone can exacerbate respiratory conditions, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. For some in Texas, like the 1.4 million adult and 617,000 children statewide affected by asthma, air quality standards that protect against harmful levels of ground-level ozone can protect against life-threatening asthma attacks.

Texas only stands to lose when lawmakers in Washington weaken and delay important health protections. The “Smoggy Skies” bill has passed the House of Representatives, but hopefully, its fate in the Senate will be dead on arrival.

No thank you, Washington, Texans prefer clean air to breathe.

Posted in Air Pollution, Clean Air Act, Dallas Fort-Worth, Environmental Protection Agency, Houston, Legislation, Ozone, San Antonio| Comments are closed

Texas lawmakers, take note: The business case for clean air

Texas lawmakers are nearing the end of another legislative session. Before they leave Austin, though, there are two things that we would like them to do to improve air quality:

  1. They should extend the successful Texas Emissions Reduction Plan, or TERP, beyond 2019.
  2. They should fully fund the program.

This matters because the 16-year-old program works.

Last week, the Houston Chronicle published an op-ed on the importance of this program, co-authored by EDF’s Dr. Elena Craft and Nolan Richardson, president of Richardson Companies, Port Houston’s largest tenant.

Here is the bottom line – Clean air is good for business.

EDF supports this program because it has been an excellent investment for Texas.

We also remind lawmakers that there is work to do until every Texan has access to clean air. Cities and counties across the state continue to receive alerts for unhealthy air. Today is another bad ozone day for Dallas-Fort Worth and the eight-county Houston region.

We urge lawmakers to finish the job by extending TERP and using every cent collected for the program on its intended purpose.

Posted in Air Pollution, Dallas Fort-Worth, Houston, Legislation, Ozone| Comments are closed

Texas Lawmakers Are Holding a Billion Dollars of Clean Air Funds Hostage

Houston skyline

What do you think that healthy communities, opportunities for businesses to expand, and diesel engines have in common?

The answer: in Texas, they’re tied together through a successful voluntary program called the Texas Emissions Reductions Plan (TERP).

TERP helps our state by:

  1. Working toward making sure all Texans breathe clean air
  2. Supporting business growth by ensuring that both Clean Air Act requirements are met and that businesses can attract talent to Texas
  3. Modernizing heavy-duty vehicle and equipment fleets through incentives for replacing the oldest, most polluting vehicles and equipment with clean technologies

TERP has been heralded by many diverse cheerleaders. We have talked about TERP’s success (and areas for improvement) in the past on Texas Clean Air Matters, but we aren’t alone in our support for the program. In fact, the program’s achievements were recently mentioned by Secretary of Energy and former Texas Governor Rick Perry, who talked about TERP during his confirmation hearing opening statement. The program is also supported by both the Texas Association of Business as a 2017 Legislative Priority, and the Texas Clean Air Working Group (comprised of many local government officials, including air quality planners and others) which advocates for full funding of the program. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Dallas Fort-Worth, Houston, Legislation, San Antonio| Comments are closed

Talking TERP– The Texas Approach to Clean Air (Part 2)

Photo courtesy of: Texas House of Representatives

Photo courtesy of: Texas House of Representatives

(In Part 1 of our series on the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan, we provided an overview to the unique approach that Texas has taken to incentivize clean air under a voluntary program that “pays” participants to modernize their older engines and equipment. Today, in Part 2, we’ll consider whether the program has been a good investment in clean air for the state.)

What would you do with $2.4 billion dollars?

In Texas, we dedicated those funds to a program that would reduce emissions – the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP). That’s a serious investment in clean air by the Lone Star State (consider, for example, the cost of the Dallas Cowboys football stadium that came in at a mere $1.2 billion).

This year marks the program’s fifteen year anniversary, so it seems timely to take a look at whether TERP has returned a good investment for the State of Texas.

What makes an investment “good”? A standard answer is that a good investment is one that achieves your goals, whether they are financial, health-related, or some other goal. TERP was created with five statutory objectives, summarized in the Texas Health and Safety Code: Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Clean Air Act, Environmental Protection Agency, TCEQ| Comments are closed

Talking TERP– The Texas Approach to Clean Air (Part 1)

Photo courtesy of: Texas House of Representatives

Photo courtesy of: Texas House of Representatives

Texas is home to many unique things – from the iconic Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo to the Eiffel Tower in Paris (Texas), we tend to do things a little differently from the rest of the country.

The same is true with how the state has decided to deal with an air pollution problem that was affecting many areas in the state years ago. Instead of requiring specific actions from businesses and others whose operations create air pollution, our business-friendly state took another tactic – we created a voluntary incentive program to pay for emission reductions.

It’s called the Texas Emissions Reductions Plan – or TERP for short. And it has worked surprisingly well. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Clean Air Act, Environmental Protection Agency, TCEQ| Comments are closed
  • About the author

    Manager, Air Quality, Port and Freight Facilities Chris' current role with EDF includes developing environmental performance strategies for the port and freight sectors, as well as working to identify innovative partnerships for clean air projects in transportation and goods movement.

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    Confluence of SJR, Old, and Middle rivers

    Advocating for healthier air and cleaner energy in Texas through public education and policy influence.

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