Citizens’ Group Questions Need for New Air Rules

Today the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission announced two measures intended to comply with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) demands on air quality. First, the TNRCC selected the federal emissions standard for new cars, trucks, and SUVs instead of the more stringent California standard. Second, the Commission recommended that Austin, San Antonio, and Longview-Tyler-Marshall receive an “unclassifiable” designation under the EPA’s 8-hour ozone rules, which have been struck down by the courts. The TNRCC could have recommended that these areas be considered in “non-attainment.”

“Many see the TNRCC’s choice as the lesser of two evils,” said Peggy Venable, Director of Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE). “But, the real question is whether or not these new regulations are needed in the first place. There are some who would like to turn the Texas environmental record into a political football in the 2000 presidential race. And the TNRCC is caught in the middle of this debate. The fact is Texas has done a good job. We should be touting the Texas environmental record.”

This month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its newest National Air Pollutant Emission Trends report, which estimates emissions nationwide through 1998. The report shows that while Texas still faces challenges with regard to air quality, there has been a substantial improvement. In line with the estimates of emissions reductions in the Emissions Trends Report, additional data from the TNRCC and EPA shows that ozone violation days are down 25 percent statewide since 1995.

“Texas has made some great progress since 1995 when, in the words of the Sierra Club, Gov. Ann Richards left the state a ‘mess,'” continued Venable. “There’s still room for improvement, obviously. But, the last thing Texans need is politics masquerading as sound environmental policy.”