The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency confirmed the Houston metropolitan area is substantially improving its air quality under a Texas state air quality plan and is on track to meet ozone-reduction goals. The EPA announcement shows national air quality is continuing its long-term improvement, especially in areas that have historically ranked near the bottom of clean-air lists.
Ongoing Air Improvements
EPA determined Texas’ state pollution reduction plan meets the agency’s standards and is steering the Houston metropolitan area into compliance with federal standards. The announcement is a significant victory for state environmental officials across the country who say there is little need for federal environmental officials to impose centralized emissions planning and standards on the individual states.
During the past 25 years, ozone levels in the Houston metropolitan area declined by nearly 30 percent.
“Through cutting-edge science, innovative technology, targeted regulation, market-oriented programs, and collaboration among the state, region, city, and business, Houston has achieved remarkable air quality improvement that few predicted,” Kathleen Hartnett White, a distinguished senior fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, said.
“The continual improvement is occurring within the world’s largest and still-growing petrochemical industrial complex with a Gulf climate that exacerbates ozone formation. Against EPA’s one-size-fits-all, draconian mandates, Texans designed and implemented pollution control programs that, indeed, worked and allowed business to flourish,” White observed.
“Given the area’s concentration of petroleum refining and petrochemical plants, Houston’s continuing air quality improvement is a remarkable data point for Julian Simon’s ultimate-resource theory,” said Robert Bradley, CEO of the Institute for Energy Research, referring to the late economist Simon’s argument that human ingenuity continually solves resource-depletion problems.
Conventional Energy Is Sustainable
“Unhealthy air in Houston is being confined to summer afternoons when the heat and stillness naturally keep people indoors,” Bradley explained. “With pollution and depletion concerns refuted before our very eyes, the fossil fuel era can be proclaimed as sustainable with a capital ‘S’.”
Effective State Leadership
“The Texas Association of Business welcomes the recognition by the EPA that the Houston metropolitan area is on track to attain the federal one-hour ozone standard,” said Stephen Minick, vice president of governmental affairs at the Texas Association of Business.
“The Houston area has made this progress while supporting a significant increase in population and maintaining its role as a major supplier of manufactured goods and the energy products that support the economies of every state in the U.S. and help this country remain competitive in a global market,” Minick observed. “This progress is due in large part to the proactive measures undertaken over a decade ago by Texas’ leadership and the legislature to enact programs funded by the businesses and citizens of Texas. These programs, based on voluntary participation and free-market principles have created incentives that have achieved emission reductions far beyond what could have been accomplished under existing legal mandates.
EPA Intervention Unnecessary
“Houston’s air quality has been improving for years and will continue to do so due to improved technologies in the industrial sector,” said H. Sterling Burnett, a senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis. “The EPA keeps shifting the bar, but increasingly stringent regulations are neither helpful nor needed. The choices made by companies looking to increase energy efficiency and waste reduction and thus improve their bottom lines, and drivers looking for more gas mileage, both in response to prices, are making choices that naturally redound to the benefit of air quality, quite apart from EPA regulations.”
“While the EPA sings its own praises, it is the people and employers in Texas who want and produce improvements in our air quality, for ourselves and all of our neighbors and descendants,” said Bob Wilson, a spokesman for Texas Republic, a Texas free-market public policy organization.
“Texas could make even more rapid progress in quality-of-life issues if the federal bureaucracy was not draining so much money from the people and employers of Texas,” he added.
D Brady Nelson ([email protected]) is an economist and entrepreneur with almost two decades of experience working with government-regulated businesses, government policymakers, and regulators.