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County facing new environmental actions

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David D. Waller
The Ellis County Press

WAXAHACHIE -New environmental actions will take affect in North Texas and Ellis County if state and county officials implement mandates from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission. A resolution passed in the Ellis County Commissioners Court Monday morning distributed by Collin County Judge Ron Harris encourages the 78th Texas Legislature to add new provisions to the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan.
'The primary thrust of the resolution is to urge our legislators to provide full funding for the Texas Emission Reduction Plan … or Senate Bill 5 which was enacted during the last legislative session,' Harris said in a letter to county judges in the North Central Texas region. 'TERP provides incentives for owners and operators of heavy construction equipment to replace or retrofit this equipment with new technology which will drastically cut polluting emissions.'
Harris also serves as chairman for the North Central Texas Clean Air Steering Committee, a committee appointed under the regional authority of North Central Texas Council of Governments.
The TERP was approved by the Texas Legislature in 2001, but its major funding sources were challenged and lost in court, leaving 'holes' in the state's SIP. 'The resolution also requests a few modifications to TERP that will make it easier and more conducive for people to participate in the program,' Harris said. Provisions urged by the resolution include,
1) Enable gasoline, propane and natural gas engines to participate in the Emissions Reduction Incentive Grant program.
2) Include a simplified rebate program for low cost emissions control technologies in the TERP programs
3) Enable stationary engines to participate in the Emissions Reduction Incentive Grant Program.
4) Remove the funding floor in the Light Duty Purchase and Lease Incentive program
5) Establish one primary and four satellite regional emission testing centers for heavy-duty vehicles and machines.
Other support state funding for further scientific research which include:
1) Ozone modeling research in the state's nonattainment areas (including Ellis County).
2) Air quality planning activities in near nonattainment areas across the state.
3) Support development of early attainment plans in the D/FW and Houston regions for the new ozone and particulate standards.
The Texas Clean Air Working Group, an environmental interest group, drafted the resolution. TCAWG members include representatives of business and local government from around the state. A county not meeting air quality standards set by the state and federal environmental agencies are classified in 'nonattainment' status. Texas regions not in attainment status were required to submit State Implementation Plans to the EPA and TNRCC or face the loss of federal highway funding.
The Texas SIP contained 'control strategies' designed to reduce nitrogen oxide pollution, one of the major contributors to the D/FW ozone problem, Harris said. The plan if fully implemented is expected to lessen NOx emissions, created by heavy machinery and industrial plants from 500 to 320 tons per day.
`Harris' letter states if the State of Texas fails to fully fund the TERP, the likely result would be the EPA rejecting the Dallas/Ft. Worth SIP and the starting of an EPA 'sanctions clock' that would threaten federal funding.
Harris pointed out loss of federal funding would seriously hurt the economic growth of the region and the state.
According to the resolution, Senate Bill 5 (TERP) provided incentives to induce voluntary replacement or retrofitting of older gas and diesel engines with newer and cleaner burning engines.The EPA approved these provisions in place of two their own. The EPA's suggested provisions would have created a 'construction time shift,' forbidding operation of heavy construction equipment until 10 a.m. from May to October.
The second provision would have required heavy equipment owners to modernize their equipment by 2007 with new engines to be introduced in 2005 and 2007.
Nonattainment and near-nonattainment areas in Texas include 38 counties and all of the major cities, representing 70 percent of the state's population.

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