>> Questions or Comments: ac@tceq.texas.gov
You are here:

Agency Activities: Air Quality (FY2013-2014)

The following summarizes the agency’s activities regarding criteria pollutant standards, requirements under various federal air quality standards, evaluating health effects, the Air Pollutant Watch List, shale oil and gas, environmental research and development, and major incentive programs. (Part of Chapter 2—Biennial Report to the 84th Legislature, FY2013-FY2014)

Air Quality

Changes to Criteria-Pollutant Standards

The federal Clean Air Act requires the EPA to review the standard for each criteria pollutant every five years to ensure that it provides the required level of health and environmental protection. Federal clean air standards, or the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), cover six air pollutants: ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide. Over the years, attaining the ozone standard has been the biggest air quality challenge in Texas.

As Texas develops proposals—region by region—to address air quality issues, the revisions are submitted to the EPA in the State Implementation Plan.

Types of Sources

Emissions that affect air quality can be characterized by their sources.

Point sources: industrial facilities such as refineries and cement kilns

Area sources: dry cleaners, gasoline stations, and residential heating

On-road mobile sources: cars and trucks

Nonroad mobile sources: construction equipment and engines, such as locomotives

Ozone Compliance Status

Ground-level ozone, a component of smog, is not emitted directly into the air but forms through a reaction of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the presence of sunlight. The major sources of NOx and VOC emissions are industrial facilities, electric utilities, car and truck exhaust, and chemical solvents. Identifying control measures that are reasonable—as well as technologically and economically feasible—has presented a challenge for the TCEQ, considering the magnitude of emission reductions already achieved under the 1990 one-hour and the 1997 eight-hour ozone standards.

In 2010, the EPA proposed a reconsideration of the 2008 eight-hour ozone standard of 0.075 parts per million to lower the proposed ozone standard within a range of 0.060–0.070 ppm. The following year, President Obama announced he had requested that the EPA withdraw the proposed reconsidered ozone standard.1 In a subsequent memo, the EPA announced it would proceed with initial area designations under the 2008 eight-hour ozone standard, starting with the recommendations states made in 2009 and updating them with the most current, certified air quality data (2008 through 2010).

2008 Eight-Hour Ozone Standard

In 2012, the EPA published final designations and classifications for the 2008 eight-hour ozone standard. The consequences for Texas were as follows:

  • The Dallas–Fort Worth area was designated a nonattainment area with a “moderate” classification.
  • The Houston-Galveston-Brazoria area was designated a nonattainment area with a “marginal” classification.
  • Matagorda and Hood counties were designated “attainment/unclassifiable.”
  • Wise County was designated nonattainment with a “moderate” classification; the county then became part of the Dallas–Fort Worth nonattainment area.

The attainment demonstration and reasonable further progress SIP revisions for the Dallas–Fort Worth 2008 eight-hour ozone nonattainment area are scheduled to be proposed for public comment on December 10, 2014, and adopted in June 2015. Both SIP revisions are due to the EPA on July 20, 2015. The Dallas–Fort Worth area is required to attain the 2008 eight-hour ozone standard by December 31, 2018. The Houston-Galveston-Brazoria area is required to attain the 2008 eight-hour ozone standard by December 31, 2015. An attainment demonstration and “reasonable further progress” SIP revisions are not required for the Houston-Galveston-Brazoria area because of its “marginal” classification. The commission is litigating the matter of including Wise County in the Dallas–Fort Worth 2008 ozone nonattainment area.

In the summer of 2014, the EPA was reviewing the 2008 ozone standard. By the end of 2014, the federal agency is expected to propose an eight-hour ozone standard between 0.060 and 0.070 ppm.

Ozone Compliance Status

Area of Texas
Attainment Status
1997 Eight-Hour Ozone
Attainment Deadline
2008 Eight-Hour Ozone
Attainment Deadline
Houston-Galveston-Brazoria
Severe
6/15/2019
Marginal
12/31/2015
Dallas–Fort Worth
Serious
6/15/2013
Moderate
12/31/2018
Beaumont–Port Arthur, El Paso, Austin, Corpus Christi, Victoria, San Antonio, East Texas, Waco
Attainment
n/a
Attainment
n/a

Note: The Houston-Galveston-Brazoria area includes the counties of Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Montgomery, and Waller. The Dallas–Fort Worth area includes the counties of Collin, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, Johnson, Kaufman, Parker, Rockwall, and Tarrant; also Wise for the 2008 eight-hour ozone standard.

Back to the top

One-Hour Ozone Standard in the Houston-Galveston-Brazoria Area

In 2012, the EPA published its final rule to determine that the Houston-Galveston-Brazoria area did not attain the one-hour ozone standard by the attainment date of November 15, 2007. Although the EPA had revoked the one-hour standard in 2005, states must continue to meet the one-hour ozone anti-backsliding requirements when triggered by a finding of “failure to attain” by the attainment date. The requirements are contingency measures that are already being met, in addition to the federal Clean Air Act’s penalty-fee program. However, ambient air monitoring data for 2011, 2012, and 2013 indicated that the Houston-Galveston-Brazoria area was meeting the one-hour ozone standard. In May 2013, the commission adopted rules to implement the penalty fee provision.

In June 2013, the EPA published proposed rulemaking to implement the 2008 ozone standard. Included in the proposed rulemaking is a mechanism for lifting anti-backsliding obligations under a revoked one-hour ozone standard. According to the EPA’s proposal, a state can provide a showing, termed a “redesignation substitute,” based on the Clean Air Act redesignation criteria to demonstrate that an area qualifies for lifting anti-backsliding obligations under a revoked standard. The EPA’s approval of the showing would have the same effect on the area’s nonattainment anti-backsliding obligations as a redesignation to attainment for the revoked standard.

To recognize the improvement in the Houston-Galveston-Brazoria area one-hour ozone levels and to ensure timely termination of the penalty-fee requirement, the TCEQ moved on two fronts. First, in accordance with the EPA’s proposed rulemaking to implement the 2008 ozone standard, the TCEQ in July 2014 submitted a report that meets the substance of the Clean Air Act redesignation criteria.

The TCEQ plans to follow this submission to the EPA with a SIP revision, which contains the same elements included in the report, but also includes the most current emissions-inventory data, based on the EPA’s updated mobile source emissions-inventory model. The SIP revision was scheduled to be proposed in November 2014 and adopted in July 2015.

2010 Sulfur Dioxide Standard

The EPA strengthened the sulfur dioxide (SO2) primary NAAQS in 2010 with a new one-hour standard, met when the 99th percentile daily maximum one-hour SO2 concentration, averaged over three years, does not exceed 75 parts per billion. The rule was challenged in federal court by Texas and other states, and dismissed in 2012 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

In February 2013, the EPA issued a new strategy paper indicating its intention to afford flexibility for each air agency to determine the appropriate approach for characterizing air quality in its jurisdiction—through monitoring, modeling, or a mix of both. The EPA plans to set emissions thresholds for states’ use in determining where further monitoring or modeling are needed to assess compliance with the NAAQS. The EPA published proposed details of this strategy in its Data Requirements Rule in May 2014. Under the proposal, states must either deploy source-oriented ambient air monitors by January 1, 2017, or submit air-quality-modeling results for each source by January 13, 2017. The remaining area designations will be made in 2017 or 2020, based on states’ decisions about modeling and monitoring SO2 sources.

No areas in Texas are designated nonattainment for SO2. Areas that states identify as exceeding the NAAQS based on modeling are expected to be designated nonattainment by the EPA in 2017. Attainment demonstration SIP revisions for these areas are expected to be due to the EPA in 2019.

In May 2014, the EPA filed a proposed consent decree with environmental groups related to litigation over the agency’s failure to designate all areas of the country for the 2010 SO2 standard by the Clean Air Act deadline. A stay in the litigation was granted until August 1, 2014, to allow the EPA to receive public comment on the consent decree.

The proposed consent decree requires the EPA to propose designations within 16 months for undesignated areas that monitored violations of the standard based on three full years of monitored data, or contain sources that emitted greater than 16,000 tons in 2012 or 2,600 tons with an emission rate of 0.45 lbs/mmBtu or higher in 2012. The proposed consent decree also requires that, by December 1, 2017, the EPA must propose designations for undesignated areas that did not install and begin operating SO2 monitors by the January 1, 2017, deployment deadline. In addition, by December 1, 2020, the EPA must propose designations for all other undesignated areas.

Back to the top

2010 Nitrogen Dioxide Standard

In 2010, the EPA published the final rule to strengthen the primary standard for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) by establishing a new one-hour standard at 100 ppb. The new standard focuses on short-term exposures to NO2, which are generally greater on and near major roads. No area in Texas has monitored above the 100 ppb standard. The EPA retained the current annual average NO2 standard of 53 ppb, but changed the monitoring-network requirements to capture both peak NO2 concentrations that occur near roadways and community-wide NO2 concentrations.
In 2012, the EPA also published the initial designations identifying all areas in the United States as unclassifiable or in attainment. The EPA’s latest monitoring-placement schedule addresses delays due to funding limitations. Near-road NO2 monitors are operating in the San Antonio, Austin–Round Rock, Dallas–Fort Worth, and Houston-Galveston-Brazoria areas. Second near-road monitors in the Dallas–Fort Worth and Houston-Galveston-Brazoria areas are scheduled to be operational by January 1, 2015. Near-road monitors in El Paso and Edinburg-Mission-McAllen are due to be working by January 1, 2017. Once the expanded network of NO2 monitors is fully deployed and has collected three years of air quality data, the EPA intends to redesignate areas, based on data from the near-road monitoring network.

2008 Lead Standard

In 2008, the EPA revised the primary standard for lead from 1.5 to 0.15 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3), measured in total suspended particulate matter. Effective in late 2010, a portion of Collin County—surrounding the Exide Technologies facility for recycling lead-acid batteries in Frisco—was designated “nonattainment” for the 2008 lead standard.

After the commission adopted the Collin County Attainment Demonstration SIP Revision and Exide’s agreed order, Exide elected to permanently close operations at its Frisco Battery Recycling Center. Most structures at the site have been demolished.
Based on recommendations from the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, the EPA was expected to propose no change to the 2008 lead NAAQS in 2014.

Particulate-Matter Standards

The federal standard for particulate matter was revised in late 2012. For PM with an aerodynamic diameter less than or equal to a nominal 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5), the EPA strengthened the annual primary PM2.5 standard to 12 μg/m3 and retained the current 24-hour primary PM2.5 standard of 35 μg/m3 using a three-year annual average. No Texas counties are designated in nonattainment for PM2.5 standards.

Texas’ designation recommendation stated there are no counties monitoring nonattainment of the PM2.5 standard, based on 2010–12 monitoring data. Texas recommended that all counties in the state with applicable PM2.5 monitoring data be designated as attainment, and all other counties be designated as unclassifiable or in attainment. In an August 2014 letter, the EPA notified the governor of its intent to modify the recommendation by designating all areas of the state as unclassifiable/attainment.

The EPA’s final designations are expected by December 12, 2014. The designations will be based on 2011–13 monitoring data or the latest certified data available. SIP revisions demonstrating attainment of the PM standard are due to the EPA three years after designations, or about 2018. A recent court ruling, however, is expected to force the EPA to implement the 2012 PM2.5 standard under Subchapter I, Part D, Subpart 4 of the Clean Air Act, rather than under Subchapter I, Part D, Subpart 1, as originally planned. Implementation of the standard under Subpart 4 would mean that attainment-demonstration SIP revisions would be due 18 months from final designations by the EPA, or about mid-June 2016.

There are also new federal requirements for near-road monitors for PM2.5. Data from the new near-road monitors will not be available in time for use in making initial attainment and nonattainment designations for the revised primary annual PM2.5 standard. Near-road monitors are expected to be operational in the Dallas–Fort Worth and Houston-Galveston-Brazoria areas on January 1, 2015; monitors in the Austin–Round Rock and San Antonio areas are due to be working on January 1, 2017.

The EPA retained the current standard for particles with an aerodynamic diameter less than or equal to a nominal 10 micrometers (PM10). The El Paso area is classified as moderately in nonattainment of the PM10 standard. In 2012, the commission adopted a SIP revision to incorporate a revised memorandum of agreement between the TCEQ and the City of El Paso to reflect a concurrent rulemaking to amend the PM-control measures.

Back to the top

Evaluating Health Effects

The TCEQ relies on health- and welfare-protective values developed by its toxicologists to ensure that airborne concentrations of pollutants stay below levels of concern (see Chapter One, “The Important Role of Toxicology”).

In 2012, after two rounds of public comment and an external scientific peer review by experts in assessing human-health risk, the TCEQ finalized the updated state-of-the-science guidelines for developing safe levels of chemicals in air.

Draft development-support documents outlining the scientific procedures used to develop chemical-specific effects screening levels and air-monitoring comparison values are subject to a 90-day public comment period before becoming final. In addition, some development-support documents have undergone a technical review or independent external peer review by subject experts. Updated toxicity assessments were completed for 20 chemicals using this process in fiscal 2013–14, and proposed development-support documents for three chemicals were opened for public comment in fiscal 2014.

For its toxicity assessments, Texas has received compliments from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the Center for Advancing Risk Assessment Science and Policy, the National Fisheries Institute, and the National Center for Environmental Assessment.

After the EPA recommended review of Texas’ guideline levels, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Minnesota are closely following Texas’ values. In addition, some countries now use Texas’ values, including Australia, Canada (Ontario, British Columbia, Calgary), Israel, Taiwan, China, Austria, Belgium, Mexico, and the Netherlands.

Air Pollutant Watch List

Air toxics are pollutants known or suspected to cause cancer or other serious health effects. The TCEQ routinely reviews and conducts health-effects evaluations of ambient air monitoring data from across the state by comparing air-toxic concentrations to their respective air-monitoring comparison values (AMCVs) or state standards. The TCEQ evaluates areas for inclusion on the Air Pollutant Watch List where monitored concentrations of air toxics are persistently measured above AMCVs or state standards.

The purpose of the watch list is to reduce air-toxic concentrations below levels of concern by focusing TCEQ resources and heightening awareness for interested parties in areas of concern.

The TCEQ also uses the watch list to identify companies with the potential of contributing to elevated ambient air-toxic concentrations and to then develop strategic actions to reduce emissions. An area’s inclusion on the watch list results in more stringent permitting, priority in investigations, and in some cases increased monitoring.

Eight areas of the state are on the watch list at www.tceq.texas.gov/goto/airwatch.

In 2014, the TCEQ removed the Port Arthur and Lynchburg Ferry areas from the watch list. The agency was also in the process of delisting the Texas City area and is evaluating two additional areas (Galena Park and Dallas) to determine whether the improvements in air quality are expected to be maintained, so the areas can be delisted. No new areas have been added to the watch list since 2007.

Oil and Gas: Boom of Shale Plays

The early activities associated with the Barnett Shale formation in the Dallas–Fort Worth area presented an unusual challenge for the TCEQ, considering this was the first time that a significant number of natural gas production and storage facilities were built and operated in Texas within heavily populated areas. In response, the TCEQ initiated improved emissions data collection from oil and gas production areas.

As discussed in Chapter One, “Challenges in the Eagle Ford Shale,” the TCEQ conducts in-depth measurements at all shale formations to evaluate the potential effects. Since August 2009, the TCEQ has surveyed more than 3,500 oil and gas sites using infrared camera technology and other monitoring instruments.

The monitoring, on-site investigations, and enforcement activities in the shale areas also complement increased air permitting activities. The additional field activities include additional stationary monitors, increased collections of ambient air canister samples, flyovers using infrared imaging, targeted mobile monitoring, and investigations (routine and complaint-driven).

A shale play is a defined geographic area containing an organic-rich, fine-grained sedimentary rock with specific characteristics. The shale forms from the compaction of silt and clay-size mineral particles commonly called “mud.”

One vital aspect in responding to shale-play activities is the need for abundant and timely communications with all interested parties. The TCEQ has relied on community open houses, meetings with county judges and other elected officials, workshops for local governments and industry, town hall meetings, legislative briefings, and guidance documents. The agency also maintains a multimedia website (see www.TexasOilandGasHelp.org) with links to rules, monitoring data, environmental complaint procedures, regulatory guidance, and frequently asked questions.

The TCEQ continues to evaluate its statewide air quality monitoring network and, when needed, will expand those operations. Fifteen automatic gas chromatograph (Auto GC) monitors operate in the Barnett Shale area, along with numerous other instruments that monitor for criteria pollutants. In addition, 16 VOC canister samplers (taking samples every sixth day) are located throughout TCEQ Region 3 (Abilene) and Region 4 (Dallas–Fort Worth).

In South Texas, the agency has established a precursor ozone monitoring station in Floresville (Wilson County), which is north of the Eagle Ford Shale. Data from this new station will help determine whether the shale oil and gas play is contributing to ozone formation in the San Antonio area.

To further address the ozone question, the TCEQ contracted with the University of Texas at Austin for mobile monitoring. UT has monitored both upwind and downwind of the Eagle Ford Shale area to test for significant increases in ozone precursors downwind of the shale play. This data will also be used to evaluate whether the existing Wilson County monitor provides data representative of a large area downwind of the Eagle Ford Shale play, or whether additional monitors are needed.

Existing statewide monitors located within oil and gas plays show no indications that these emissions are of sufficient concentration or duration to be harmful to residents.

Back to the top

Infrastructure and Transport and the SIP

The federal Clean Air Act requires that each state develop and submit an infrastructure SIP revision demonstrating how the state provides for the implementation, maintenance, and enforcement of a new or revised NAAQS within three years following promulgation of the standards. One of the key infrastructure provisions requires that a state’s SIP include adequate provisions to prohibit emissions within the state from contributing significantly to nonattainment in any other state or interfering with maintenance in any other state.

The EPA promulgated a cap-and-trade program in 2005 called the Clean Air Interstate Rule. In accordance with the Clean Air Act transport requirements, CAIR was designed to aid nonattainment areas in downwind states in complying with the 1997 24-hour and annual PM2.5 standards and 1997 eight-hour ozone standard. Twenty-eight eastern states and the District of Columbia are subject to CAIR for contributing to downwind PM2.5 or ozone. CAIR applies specific budgets to subject states for annual SO2, annual NOx, and ozone-season NOx, depending on the determination of a state’s downwind contribution.

Texas was found to contribute to downwind PM2.5 nonattainment in Illinois and was required by a federal implementation plan to comply with annual NOx and SO2 budgets. CAIR was subsequently challenged in federal court, and in 2008 the rule was remanded to the EPA by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals for reconsideration. In 2011, the EPA finalized the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule as the replacement for CAIR.

In 2012, the D.C. Circuit Court vacated the CSAPR and ordered the EPA to continue to administer CAIR while it works on a replacement transport rule. The EPA and various environmental groups petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review the D.C. Circuit Court’s decision. In April 2014, the Supreme Court issued a ruling in favor of the EPA, reversing the D.C. Circuit Court’s decision on the CSAPR. However, the Supreme Court remanded the case to the D.C. Circuit Court for further proceedings, so the stay of CSAPR remains in effect. The EPA has asked the D.C. Circuit Court to lift the stay, and briefs have been filed with the court. But with no decision issued, the disposition of the CSAPR is pending. As a result, CAIR remains in place until a replacement is implemented.

The TCEQ has submitted infrastructure and transport SIP revisions to the EPA for these standards: 1997 ozone, 1997 PM2.5, 2006 PM2.5, 2008 ozone, 2008 lead, 2010 NO2, and 2010 SO2. An infrastructure-and-transport SIP revision for the 2012 PM2.5 standard is due to the EPA in December 2015.

Regional Haze

Guadalupe and Big Bend national parks are Class I areas of Texas identified by the federal government as needing visibility protection, along with 154 other national parks and wilderness areas within the country. The regional haze program is a long-term air quality program that requires states to establish goals and strategies to reduce visibility-impacting pollutants in the Class I areas and to meet a national visibility goal by 2064.

In Texas, the pollutants potentially influencing visibility are primarily NOx, SO2, and PM. Requirements of the regional haze program include reports due to the EPA in 2014, and every five years thereafter, demonstrating progress toward the visibility goal. Another regional-haze SIP revision will be due in 2018 and every 10 years thereafter to 2064.

The initial Texas regional haze SIP revision was adopted by the commission and submitted to the EPA in 2009. This visibility improvement plan relied primarily on CAIR emission reductions that the EPA previously determined sufficient to satisfy best available retrofit technology requirements for electric generating units. The regional haze SIP revision projects that Texas Class I areas will not meet the 2064 federal goal for visibility due to emissions from the Ohio River Valley and international sources. Big Bend National Park will meet the federal visibility goal in 2155 (91 years after 2064) and the Guadalupe National Park will meet the federal visibility goal in 2081 (17 years after 2064).

In February 2014, the commission adopted the 2014 Five-Year Regional Haze SIP Revision. This SIP revision is a required progress report that contains a summary of the following:

  • emissions reduced
  • an assessment of visibility conditions and changes for each Class I area in Texas and other Class I areas that Texas may affect
  • an analysis of emissions reductions by pollutant
  • a review of Texas’ visibility monitoring strategy and any necessary modifications

The EPA’s final action on the 2009 regional haze SIP is expected in September 2015.

Back to the top

Major Incentive Programs

The TCEQ has three incentive programs aimed at reducing emissions in various ways: the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan, Drive a Clean Machine, and the Texas Clean School Bus Program.

Texas Emissions Reduction Plan

The Texas Emissions Reduction Plan gives financial incentives to owners and operators of heavy-duty vehicles and equipment for projects that will lower NOx emissions. Because NOx is a leading contributor to the formation of ground-level ozone, reducing these emissions is key to achieving compliance with the federal ozone standard.

Recently added incentive programs also support the increase in the use of alternative fuels for transportation in Texas.

  • The Diesel Emissions Reduction Incentive Program has been the primary incentive program since the TERP was established in 2001. The DERI incentives have been focused largely on the ozone nonattainment areas of Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston-Galveston-Brazoria. Funding has also been awarded to projects in the Tyler-Longview-Marshall, San Antonio, Beaumont-Port Arthur, Austin, Corpus Christi, El Paso, and Victoria areas. From 2001 through August 2014, the DERI program awarded more than $905 million for the upgrade or replacement of 15,623 heavy-duty vehicles, locomotives, marine vessels, and pieces of equipment. Over the life of these projects, 160,836 tons of NOx are projected to be reduced, which in 2014 equated to 53.8 tons per day. The next grant-application period was scheduled to open after September 2014 for total available funding of $68 million.
  • The Texas Clean Fleet Program provides funding for replacement of diesel vehicles with alternative-fuel or hybrid vehicles. From 2009 through August 2014, 12 grants were funded to replace 305 vehicles for a total of $23.6 million. These projects included a range of alternative-fuel vehicles, including propane school buses, natural gas garbage trucks, hybrid delivery vehicles and garbage trucks, and electric vehicles. These projects are projected to reduce more than 314 tons of NOx over the life of the projects. The most recent grant-application period opened in July 2014 for a funding amount of almost $7.8 million, with grant awards planned for fall of 2014.
  • The Texas Natural Gas Vehicle Grants Program provides grants for the replacement or repower of heavy-duty or medium-duty diesel- or gasoline-powered vehicles with natural gas-powered vehicles and engines. Eligible vehicles must be operated in the counties designated under the Clean Transportation Triangle Program. From 2009 through August 2014, the program funded 57 grants to replace 714 vehicles for a total of $32.1 million. These projects are projected to reduce more than 1,137 tons of NOx over the life of the projects. The program has an additional $12.4 million available for fiscal 2015 grants. All available funding is expected to be awarded, based on the applications received.
  • The Clean Transportation Triangle Program provides grants to support the development of a network of natural gas vehicle-fueling stations. The program was originally aimed at fueling stations along the interstate highways connecting the Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, and San Antonio areas. The eligible areas were expanded by the Legislature in 2013 to include counties within the triangle formed by those interstate highways, as well as other areas also eligible under the DERI program. From 2012 through August 2013, the CTTP funded 18 grants for a total of $3.9 million. Grant selections for 2014 were made in June 2014 to fund an additional 19 projects for $7.76 million. The final award of these grants was pending negotiations of the grant contracts with the selected recipients.
  • The Alternative Fueling Facilities Program provides grants for the construction, reconstruction, or acquisition of facilities to store, compress, or dispense alternative fuels in areas of Texas designated as “nonattainment.” From 2012 through August 2013, the program funded four grants for a total of $1.8 million. Grant selections were made in June 2014 to fund an additional 21 projects for $7.76 million. The final award of the grants was pending negotiations of the grant contracts with the selected recipients.
  • The New Technology Implementation Grant Program funds incremental costs of reducing emissions of regulated pollutants from facilities and other stationary sources in Texas. Two grants were awarded in 2011 for a total of almost $6.2 million. However, one of those two projects was subsequently canceled by the grant recipient. The remaining project involves a system to capture and store energy from wind-powered generation sources. The latest grant-application period closed June 2014. The grant selections for a funding amount of $4.6 million were expected to be completed by early fiscal 2015.

In addition, two additional TERP incentive programs were established by the Legislature in 2013.

  • The Light-Duty Purchase or Lease Incentive Program provides an incentive up to $2,500 for the purchase of a light-duty vehicle operating on natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, or plug-in electric drive. The program is allocated $7.8 million through fiscal 2015 when its authority expires. As of August 2014, 317 grants had been awarded for a total of $675,625. An additional $7.07 million will be available to award in fiscal 2015.
  • The Drayage Truck Incentive Program was established to provide incentive funding to replace drayage trucks operating at seaports and railyards in Texas nonattainment areas with newer, less-polluting drayage trucks. The program rules were adopted in April 2014, followed by adoption of program guidelines in August. The first grant application period was expected to open in September 2014 with total funding of $3.1 million.

TERP grants and activities are further detailed in a separate report, TERP Biennial Report to the Texas Legislature (TCEQ publication SFR-079/14).

Back to the top

Drive a Clean Machine

The Drive a Clean Machine program (see www.driveacleanmachine.org) was established in 2007 as part of the Low Income Repair Assistance, Retrofit, and Accelerated Vehicle Retirement Program (LIRAP) to remove older, polluting cars and trucks and replace them with newer, cleaner-running vehicles.

The Drive a Clean Machine program is available in the areas of Houston-Galveston-Brazoria, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Austin-Round Rock. The counties in these areas conduct annual inspections of vehicle emissions.

From the program’s debut in December 2007 through May 2014, more than $177 million was provided to qualifying vehicle owners. This funding helped replace a total of 53,196 vehicles and repair an additional 33,545 vehicles.

In 2014, Collin County requested to no longer collect the $6 per emissions test that supports the program and to discontinue participation in LIRAP. Fulfilling this request will require action on the agency’s part. The TCEQ has begun working on rule amendments to allow this option for any participating county.

Texas Clean School Bus Program

The Texas Clean School Bus Program provides grants for technologies that reduce diesel-exhaust emissions inside the cabin of a school bus. In addition to grant funding, the program offers educational materials to school districts on other ways to reduce emissions, such as idling reduction.

From 2008 to August 2014, the Texas Clean School Bus Program used state and federal funds to reimburse approximately $25.9 million in grants to 188 public school districts or charter schools to retrofit about 7,100 school buses in Texas. In just the last two fiscal years, the program used state and federal funds to reimburse approximately $5.6 million in grants to nine public school districts or charter schools to retrofit 291 buses in Texas.

Environmental Research and Development

The TCEQ supports cutting-edge scientific research into the causes of air pollution in Texas. Most recently, the agency’s Air Quality Research Program (AQRP) has been engaged in a range of projects, which built upon the air quality scientific research studies from the previous biennium.

One recent research activity was the field study called DISCOVER-AQ (Deriving Information on Surface Conditions from Column and Vertically Resolved Observations Relevant to Air Quality).

During the summer of 2013, NASA aircraft conducted a series of flights with scientific instruments on board to measure gaseous and particulate pollution in the Houston area. NASA strives to improve the use of satellites to monitor air quality for public health and environmental benefit.

To complement the NASA flight-based measurements and to lever the extensive measurements being funded by NASA to better understand factors that control air quality in Texas, ground-based air quality measurements were made simultaneously by researchers from collaborating organizations. Multiple ground sites were expanded or established to accommodate the instrumentation brought to Houston by research collaborators. This project centralized and coordinated the site infrastructure preparation for the ground sites identified for expansion to support DISCOVER-AQ Houston 2013. The data and information collected during the study will be analyzed through AQRP participants and TCEQ staff, and are expected to provide additional insights into the complex air quality concerns in the Houston area.

Other important air quality research carried out through the AQRP has included:

  • chamber studies to improve mechanisms to model ozone formation from highly reactive VOCs
  • investigations of regional background ozone and transport
  • investigations of SO2 measurements in the Houston Ship Channel area using previously collected data
  • deployment of ozone sonde equipment to better understand the recirculation of ozone over Galveston and Trinity bays
  • investigations of the effects of fire emissions estimates and transport, and their impacts on ozone and particulate matter
  • a study to improve the state-of-the-art meteorological models used in SIP development

In addition to research carried out through the AQRP, the TCEQ used grants and contracts to support ongoing air quality research. Some notable projects have included:

  • A study to obtain important baseline measurements of VOC species that result from oil and gas activity in the Eagle Ford Shale area.
  • Continued sampling and analysis of particulate-matter chemical speciation that is used to support documentation of exceptional impact at the Clinton Drive monitor in Houston.
  • A review and analysis of wildfires and the potential impacts on air quality in Texas to support exceptional-event technical demonstrations.
  • A special monitoring project to help identify sources contributing to high SO2 concentrations in the Corpus Christi area.
  • Aerial surveys using forward-looking infrared-camera technology to evaluate specific areas or types of emissions.
  • Investigations of tools for ozone-forecast modeling.
  • A joint project by the TCEQ and University of Texas at Austin to create Web-based training modules for supplemental flare operations. These modules are intended to supplement plant-specific training by informing plant personnel about variables affecting flare performance from the 2010 TCEQ Flare Study and more recently completed flare projects. This free online training became available to the public in 2013.

The latest findings from these research projects should help the state to understand and appropriately address some of the persistent air quality issues faced by Texans. Challenges remain, however, as the revised air quality standards proposed by the EPA will be difficult to meet.

Back to the top