March 11, 2007
The federal government has declared several Texas regions “non-attainment” or “near non-attainment.” That’s a ridiculously bureaucratic way of saying that several Texas regions don’t meet federal health standards or are nearly violating federal health standards for air quality. That’s right – the air isn’t healthy if you breathe it.
I suppose it’s pretty much okay if you don’t.
Today in Texas, the Houston-Galveston, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Beaumont-Port Arthur areas are designated non-attainment. San Antonio, Austin, and parts of East Texas participate in what are called “Early Action Compacts.” That means these areas, which are close to violating the federal clean air standards, have voluntarily chosen to participate in certain projects and programs to avoid going into federal non-attainment.
Other parts of the state, such as Corpus Christi and El Paso, are perilously close to non-attainment. If regions are in non-attainment, they are forced to comply with certain restrictions and to participate in certain programs.
Being in non-attainment can result in serious penalties that impact jobs, transportation funding, and even personal behavior. SB 1771, which was amended onto another bill during the 2007 legislative session, targets two type of regions: 1) those currently in non-attainment that fail to meet their requirements to clean up the air by the required deadlines, or 2) those that become non-attainment.
Under my bill, in order to achieve necessary emissions reductions, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality first requires all technically feasible reductions from any coal or nuclear plant, permitted after January 1, 2007, that has excessive emissions of ozone-forming chemicals (ozone can cause or worsen asthma and is a primary reason regions go into non-attainment). This makes sure we protect and preserve our air quality and ensures that if the state grants permits to build new power plants, the new plants will not: