Sunday, June 27, 2010

PolitiFact Texas | Perry: State has cut ozone 22%, nitrogen oxide emissions 46%

In short, said UT's Allen,
Perry's ozone figure is in line with what the agency and university researchers have found. "All of these measurements paint a consistent picture. Ozone concentrations are going down across the state," he said.

Still, some parts of Texas have struggled to meet federal ozone standards. Three regions are currently designated in nonattainment under a limit set by EPA in 1997: Dallas-Forth Worth (nine counties), Houston (eight counties), and Beaumont-Port Arthur (four counties). According to TCEQ, the Beaumont area is being reclassified as in compliance and the Houston area met the standard for the first time in 2009.

But a tightening of EPA standards, expected in August, will likely put several more areas, including the five-county Austin region, out of compliance.

Next, to what degree were the reductions in ozone and NOx achieved by the state's "clean-air program"?

Al Armendariz of Dallas, administrator of EPA's multi-state Region 6, which includes Texas, credited all levels of government with hastening the ozone improvements, especially in Dallas and Houston. As examples, he pointed to enforcement actions taken against industry by the federal government that led to facilities' agreeing to major cuts in emissions, as well as state initiatives.

The state touts incentive-driven programs such as its Emission Reduction Plan, which has spent more than $760 million since 2000 to help companies retrofit or replace more than 12,000 diesel vehicles with cleaner-burning ones.

Despite the ozone improvements, a report released April 28 by the American Lung Association ranked the Houston area as the seventh-worst in the nation for ozone pollution and Dallas-Fort Worth 13th. (The worst six places for ozone were in California.) Of the 30 Texas counties graded by the lung association on their ozone pollution, 21 -- including Travis -- received F's.

So how does Perry's statement hold up?

The governor accurately cites recent improvements in the state's ozone levels. As for the NOx emissions contributing to ozone levels, his statistic refers to only one source -- industrial -- which he did not note. Nearly three-quarters comes from other sources.

Whether the state gets the credit for those improvements is another issue. Even if TCEQ is responsible for the drop in industrial NOx emissions, federal efforts -- namely vehicle emission regulations -- also have helped lower ozone levels. Significantly, the state's ozone-related programs exist to help Texas comply with federal expectations.

We rate Perry's statement as Half True.

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