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EPA Invites Public Comment on Proposed Houston/Galveston Clean Air Decision

Release Date: 7/9/2001
Contact Information: For more information contact the Office of External Affairs at (214) 665-2200.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) invites the public to comment on EPA’s proposals to approve seven additional parts of the clean air plan for the Houston/ Galveston area. The Houston/Galveston clean air plan, formally known as the State Implementation Plan or SIP, details how the eight-county area will ensure it meets the national health-based air quality standard for ozone by 2007.

“To comply with the terms of our consent decree with the Natural Resources Defense Council, EPA must make a final decision on the Houston SIP by October 15. Over the next few days, we will begin releasing important documents for public comment,” EPA Regional Administrator Gregg Cooke said. “Two important elements crucial to the success of the Texas clean air plan are included in these documents. These elements are changes reflecting laws passed during the Texas Legislative session, and legally binding commitments on future measures to reduce air pollution,” Cooke added.

Earlier in June, EPA published in the Federal Register three parts of the state’s clean air plan for Houston. Today, EPA announced the proposed approvals of an additional seven parts of the clean air plan. These include:
- Proposal for the Houston/Galveston Overall Attainment Demonstration, which serves as

      the ‘umbrella’ plan made up of measures and enforceable commitments to achieve clean air attainment by 2007;
    - Proposal for the Texas Nitrogen Oxide Point Source Rule requiring approximately 90% reduction in nitrogen oxide emissions from existing point sources;
- Proposal for the Texas Cap and Trade Rules for all stationary sources in the eight county non-attainment area reducing nitrogen oxide emissions from existing levels by about 90% starting in 2002;
- Proposal for the Texas Low Emission Diesel Rule establishing diesel fuel requirements for on-highway and off-road by 2005;
    - Texas Large Spark and Airport Ground Support Equipment Rule proposing new regulations on large spark-ignited engines and cleaner operating ground support equipment at airports;
- Direct Final Approval for the Volatile Organic Compound Reasonable Available Control
Technology (RACT) Rule extending control of volatile organic compounds to include batch processes, events and offset lithographic printing; and
- Direct Final Approval for the Texas Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) Offset SIP documenting the mobile source emission reduction benefits in the Houston area.
    “I congratulate everyone who worked to accomplish this first step in providing cleaner air for the Houston/Galveston area – and to help other communities like Beaumont/Port Arthur who are dependent on Houston’s success,” Cooke continued. “I am very encouraged by the Texas Legislature’s action to create an economic incentive program to reduce air pollution. It is certain to become a national model. Aspects of this clean air plan are truly unique,” Cooke added.

    Throughout the plan’s development, EPA worked closely with state and local officials, business, industry and organizations in identifying air pollution controls to help Houston/Galveston meet the national health-based standard for ozone.

    Houston/Galveston=s plan includes a range of actions to reduce air pollution focusing on local and regional controls and a mid-course review in May 2004 to assess how controls are working and make revisions if needed.

    Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission Commissioner R.B. "Ralph" Marquez said, “While implementation of the plan will proceed as scheduled, we will continue to work with our partners at the federal and local level to come up with better ways to meet the air quality standards.”

    EPA has continued to negotiate with sources of air pollution that are normally outside of the state’s ability to regulate, such as railroads and marine vessels. Last December, a voluntary agreement was signed by EPA, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company, Union Pacific Railroad Company, TNRCC and Houston-Galveston Area Council (HGAC) which should reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 2 tons a day. In June 2001, a voluntary agreement was signed by the Texas Waterway Operators Association representing tug, barge and towing companies, EPA, TNRCC and the HGAC which should reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 1.1 tons a day.

    A 30-day public comment period will begin after EPA=s proposed approval is printed in the Federal Register. Direct Final actions are effective in 60 days.