7 December 2000
In its meeting on December 6, the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC) approved a package of pollution-reduction measures for the eight-county Houston-Galveston ozone nonattainment area (Harris, Galveston, Montgomery, Fort Bend, Brazoria, Waller, Liberty, and Chambers counties), along with statewide and Central and East Texas regional measures, designed to bring the region into compliance with federal ambient air quality standards by the year 2007.
The plan will be submitted this month to the EPA for approval. It is expected to reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions region-wide by 75%, and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) by 40% in the Houston area.
TNRCC Commissioners emphasized that the plan will remain a work in progress. A scientific review is planned for 2002, with a comprehensive evaluation followed by necessary adjustments scheduled for 2004, three years before the federally-mandated compliance deadline of 2007.
The approved plan includes most of the measures for industrial and mobile emission sources that were proposed in August, as follows:
- A 90% reduction in NOx emissions on major industrial sources.
- A more effective vehicle emissions testing program for a number of counties.
- A ban on the use of heavy-duty construction equipment in Harris, Galveston, Fort Bend, Brazoria, and Montgomery counties, from 6 a.m. to noon from April 1 to Oct. 31, starting in 2005.
- A statewide rule requiring the sale of cleaner diesel fuel used in on-road vehicles (see the proposal for details).
- A ban on the use of small gasoline-powered lawn care equipment by commercial operators in Harris, Galveston, Fort Bend, Brazoria and Montgomery counties, between 6 a.m. and noon from April 1 to Oct. 31 starting in 2005.
- Early retirement and replacement of off-highway diesel equipment in the eight counties starting in December 2004.
- Speed limit reductions to 55 mph in the eight-county area effective by 1 May 2002.
- A cap on NOx emissions in the eight-county area, and a provision for banking and trading NOx emissions as long as the amount remains below that cap.
- Voluntary local measures in the eight counties, for example increased use of mass transit, telecommuting, stoplight synchronization, and HOV lanes;
- A ban on excessive engine idling which applies to large commercial trucks in the eight counties.
- Commitments to review specific new clean-air technologies, including fuel additives, catalysts, and fuel cells, and a commitment to develop an energy efficiency program which would include use of more energy efficient appliances, and local building code changes.
Measures that were considered earlier but dropped from the final package include the restrictions on airport ground support diesel equipment, the proposed mandate for diesel-water emulsion fuels, and the mandate for 80% effective NOx reduction devices. These measures met with strong opposition from airlines, railroad, and trucking operators.