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Agency Activities: Air Quality (FY2015-2016)

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 85th Legislature, FY2015-FY2016)

Air Quality

Changes to Standards for Criteria Pollutants

The federal Clean Air Act requires the EPA to review the standard for each criteria pollutant every five years to ensure that it achieves 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. Attaining the ozone standard continues to be the biggest air quality challenge in Texas.

As Texas develops proposals—region by region—to address air quality issues, it submits the revisions to the EPA in the State Implementation Plan (SIP).

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 and volatile organic compounds in the presence of sunlight. The major sources of NO x 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 previous ozone standards.

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

On May 21, 2012, the EPA published final designations for the 2008 eight-hour ozone standard of 0.075 parts per million (ppm). The Dallas–Fort Worth area was designated “nonattainment,” with a “moderate” classification and the Houston-Galveston-Brazoria area was designated “nonattainment,” with a “marginal” classification. The attainment demonstration and reasonable further progress SIP revisions for the DFW 2008 eight-hour ozone nonattainment area were adopted in June 2015. The DFW area is required to attain the 2008 eight-hour ozone standard by July 20, 2018; the HGB area was required to do so by July 20, 2015, but did not attain by that date. It is anticipated that the EPA will reclassify the HGB area to moderate nonattainment in December 2016. The HGB area’s new attainment deadline will presumably be July 20, 2018, with a 2017 attainment year, which is the year that the area must attain the applicable standard. The submission of the HGB SIP revision for the EPA’s reclassification is Jan. 1, 2017.

Currently, the EPA has approved the state’s redesignation substitute for the HGB area one-hour ozone nonattainment area and has proposed approval for the one-hour DFW ozone nonattainment area as well as the 1997 eight-hour ozone nonattainment areas for HGB and DFW. If approved, the redesignation substitute replaces the previous designation.

Ozone Compliance Status

Area of Texas
 
2008 Eight-Hour Ozone
 
Attainment Deadline
 
Houston-Galveston-Brazoria
Marginal
7/20/2015
Dallas–Fort Worth
Moderate
7/20/2018
Beaumont–Port Arthur, El Paso, Austin, Corpus Christi,
Victoria, San Antonio, East Texas, Waco
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, and Wise.

2015 Eight-Hour Ozone Standard

In October 2015, the EPA finalized the 2015 eight-hour ozone standard of 0.070 parts per million. State recommendations that are due to the EPA on Oct. 1, 2016 will be based on the latest complete monitoring data available at that time (2013 through 2015). The EPA will make final designations by Oct. 1, 2017, and will use design values from 2014 through 2016.

2010 Sulfur Dioxide Standard

The EPA revised the sulfur dioxide (SO2) NAAQS in June 2010, adding a one-hour primary standard of 75 parts per billion. In July 2013, the EPA designated 29 areas in 16 states in nonattainment of the 2010 standard, none of which are in Texas. On March 3, 2015, a U.S. District Court Order set deadlines for the EPA to complete designations for the SO2 NAAQS. It requires that EPA designate by July 2, 2016, any areas monitoring violations or with the largest SO2 sources fitting specific criteria for SO2 emissions. A subsequent court deadline for some of these areas to be designated has been extended to Aug. 31, 2016, for some sources and Oct. 30, 2016, for other sources. Sources with more than 2,000 tons per year of SO2 emissions not designated in 2016 will be designated based on modeling data by December 2017 or monitoring data by December 2020. Currently, there are no areas in Texas monitoring nonattainment for SO2 and not all SO2-emission sources have ambient monitors nearby.

Per the August 2015, 2010 SO 2 NAAQS Data Requirements Rule (DRR), Texas identified 25 sources with 2014 SO2 emissions of 2,000 tons per year or more. The EPA was notified of these on Jan. 15, 2016. On April 22, 2016 the TCEQ requested revision of the list down to 24 sources, and the EPA concurred on May 16, 2016. The DRR required Texas to inform the EPA by July 1, 2016 of the approach to air quality characterization planned for each of the 24 source locations listed. For any of those 24 sources that will not be designated in July, August, or October 2016 and that the TCEQ intends to evaluate with modeling, the protocols were also due by July 1, 2016, completed analyses are due by Jan. 13, 2017, and ongoing annual emission-inventory review and reporting to the EPA is required. Where the TCEQ intends to evaluate sources through ambient monitoring, the DRR requires appropriately sited monitors in operation by Jan. 1, 2017. Information about these planned monitoring sites was submitted to the EPA by July 1, 2016 as part of the TCEQ’s Annual Monitoring Network Plan. The TCEQ’s 2016 plan, which includes information about the new SO2 monitoring sites planned, was presented for public comment on May 16, 2016.

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. Compliance with the lead standard is based on 36 three-month rolling averages. Between Jan. 1, 2013, and Dec. 31, 2015, the Collin County area did not have a three-month rolling average above the lead NAAQS. Therefore, the area achieved compliance with the 2008 lead NAAQS as of Dec. 31, 2015. The TCEQ has developed a request to the EPA that the Frisco lead nonattainment area be redesignated to attainment based on 36 months of monitoring data below the federal standard. The commission approved proposal to request redesignation of Collin County to attainment for the 2008 lead NAAQS on April 27, 2016. Adoption of the SIP revision is scheduled for October 2016.

Particulate-Matter Standards

The final rule for PM NAAQS was announced on Dec. 14, 2012. For particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter less than or equal to a nominal 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5), the EPA lowered the annual primary standard to 12 μg/m3 and retained the current 24-hour primary standard of 35 μg/m3 using a three-year annual average. The EPA retained the current standard for particles with an aerodynamic diameter less than or equal to a nominal 10 micrometers (PM10). Existing secondary standards for both PM2.5 and PM10 were also retained. No counties in Texas are currently designated “nonattainment” nor are in maintenance status for the primary annual and 24-hour PM2.5 standards.

On Dec. 18, 2014, the EPA issued final area designations for the 2012 PM2.5 NAAQS. The EPA designated all areas of Texas unclassifiable or in attainment. However, the El Paso area is classified as a moderate nonattainment area for the PM10 standard. El Paso was one of the original areas designated in nonattainment in 1990 under the amendments to the federal Clean Air Act and is influenced by natural events such as windstorms.

In April 2015, the newest near-road monitors became operational in DFW and HGB. Monitors in the Austin–Round Rock and San Antonio areas will be operational on Jan. 1, 2017. In 2015, the TCEQ’s Monitoring Division deployed new ambient-air-monitoring equipment in Edinburg. The device has equipment for monitoring PM2.5, PM10, and meteorology and meets federal requirements.

Evaluating Health Effects

TCEQ toxicologists meet their goals of identifying chemical hazards, evaluating potential exposures, assessing human health risks, and communicating risk to the general public and stakeholders in a variety of ways. Perhaps most notably, the TCEQ relies on health- and welfare-protective values developed by its toxicologists to ensure that both permitted and monitored airborne concentrations of pollutants stay below levels of concern. Values for over 98 pollutants have been derived so far. Texas has received compliments from numerous federal agencies and academic institutions, and many other states and countries use the TCEQ’s values.

TCEQ toxicologists use the health- and welfare-protective values it derives for air monitoring—for example, air-monitoring comparison values (AMCVs)—to evaluate the public-health risk of millions of measurements of air-pollutant concentrations collected from the ambient-air-monitoring network throughout the year.

When necessary, the TCEQ also conducts health effects research on particular chemicals with limited or conflicting information. In fiscal 2016 and 2017, specific work evaluating arsenic, particulate matter, and ozone was completed. This work can inform the review and assessment of human-health risk of air, water, or soil samples collected during investigations and remediation, as well as aid in communicating health risk to the public.

Finally, toxicologists communicate risk and toxicology with the public, state and federal legislators and their committees, the EPA, other government agencies, the press, and judges during legal proceedings. This often includes input on EPA rulemaking, including the NAAQS, through written comments, meetings, and scientific publications.

Air Pollutant Watch List

The TCEQ oversees the Air Pollutant Watch List activities that result when ambient pollutant concentrations exceed these protective levels. 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 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 currently on the watch list pub lished online at <www.tceq.texas.gov/toxicology/apwl>.

In fiscal 2016, the TCEQ delisted two watch list areas (Dallas and Texas City) and expects to delist another in September 2016 (Beaumont). The TCEQ is also evaluating an additional area (Galena Park) to determine whether the improvements in air quality are expected to be maintained. No new areas have been added to the watch list since 2007.

Oil and Gas: Boom of Shale Plays

The TCEQ continues to collect monitoring data from oil and gas production areas, including the Barnett Shale and Eagle Ford Shale.

The TCEQ conducts in-depth measurements at shale formations to evaluate the potential effects. The TCEQ continues to conduct surveys and investigations at oil and gas sites using optical gas imaging camera (OGIC) technology and other monitoring instruments.

The monitoring, on-site investigations, and enforcement activities in the shale areas also complement increased air-permitting activities. However, with the downturn in the price of oil and natural gas, air permitting for oil and gas sites has slowed to some degree. The additional field activities include additional stationary monitors, increased collections of ambient air canister samples, flyovers using OGIC 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, and regulatory guidance.

The TCEQ continues to evaluate its statewide network for air quality monitoring and, when needed, will expand those operations. Fifteen automatic-gas-chromatograph 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, that began operating on July 18, 2013. A monitoring station has also been established in Karnes City, which is located in Karnes County, and was activated on Dec. 17, 2014. Karnes County continues to lead the Eagle Ford Shale play in production and drilling activities. The data from these new monitoring stations is used to help determine whether the shale oil and gas play is contributing to ozone formation in the San Antonio area. It should be noted that 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.

Regional Haze

Guadalupe Mountains and Big Bend national parks are Class I areas of Texas identified by the federal government for visibility protection, along with 154 other national parks and wilderness areas throughout the country. Regional Haze is a long-term air quality program requiring states to establish goals and strategies to reduce visibility-decreasing pollutants in the Class I areas and meet a “natural conditions” visibility goal by 2064. In Texas, the pollutants influencing visibility are primarily NOx, SO2, and PM. Regional Haze program requirements include updated plans due to the EPA every 10 years and progress reports due to the EPA every five years in between plan updates, to demonstrate progress toward natural conditions.

The Texas Regional Haze SIP revision was submitted to the EPA on March 19, 2009. The plan projected that Texas Class I areas will not meet the 2064 “natural conditions” goal due to emissions from the eastern United States and international sources. On Jan. 5, 2016, the EPA finalized a partial disapproval of the 2009 SIP revision and issued a federal implementation plan effective Feb. 4, 2016. Texas filed a legal challenge to the EPA’s action in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit on Feb. 29, 2016. On July 15, 2016, the 5th Circuit stayed the EPA’s FIP pending the resolution of the lawsuit. The FIP requires emissions control upgrades or emissions limits at eight coal-fired power plants in Texas. The EPA also approved the Texas Best Available Retrofit Technology (BART) rule with regard to non-electric utility generating units, but due to continuing issues with the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, the EPA could not take action on BART requirements for electric utility generating units (EGUs). The EPA has recently initiated action to develop a FIP to address BART for 28 Texas EGUs. Per a consent decree with environmental groups, the proposed BART FIP is scheduled for December 2016 with final rulemaking scheduled for 2017.

The first five-year progress report on regional haze was submitted to the EPA in March 2014. It contained:

  • a summary of emissions reductions achieved from the plan
  • an assessment of visibility conditions and changes for each Class I area in Texas that Texas may have an impact on
  • an analysis of emissions reductions by pollutant
  • a review of Texas’ visibility monitoring strategy and any necessary modifications

On April 25, 2016, the EPA proposed a new rule to update aspects of the Regional Haze program. The proposed rule would:

  • strengthen requirements for consultation with federal land managers
  • extend Reasonably Attributable Visibility Impairment requirements to all states to address situations where a single source or small number of sources affect visibility in a Class I area
  • extend the SIP submission deadline for the second planning period from July 31, 2018 to July 31, 2021
  • adjust the submission deadline so that second progress reports would be due by Jan. 31, 2025
  • remove the requirement for progress reports to be SIP revisions

It is anticipated that the rule will be final in late 2016.

Clean Power Plan

On Oct. 23, 2015, the EPA published final Clean Power Plan rules and proposed federal plan and model rules. The CPP establishes emission guidelines for carbon dioxide (CO2 ) under federal Clean Air Act Section 111(d). The CPP applies to existing fossil fuel-fired EGUs that commenced construction on or before Jan. 8, 2014. Section 111(d) requires each state to develop “standards of performance” for existing stationary sources and a plan to achieve those standards. Standard of performance is defined as “the degree of emission limitation achievable through the application of the best system of emission reduction (taking into account the cost of achieving such reduction).” The EPA’s final plan relies on three building blocks:

  1. heat-rate improvement: efficiency improvements on coal-fired units
  2. redispatch to existing natural gas combined-cycle plants: shifting generation from coal-fired and other higher CO2 emitting units to these plants
  3. renewable energy: expand low- or zero-carbon energy generation.

States can either adopt the unit-type specific standards of performance that the EPA established in the final CPP rule, or the states can assign different standards on an individual unit basis provided the state plan shows compliance with the EPA-assigned statewide CO2 standards. Under the second option, the state can either meet a statewide rate-based standard in pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour or a statewide mass-based standard in total tons of CO2.

On Feb. 9, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay of the CPP final rule, until all appeals to the court are finished. This stays all deadlines of the rule, such as the state submission dates (Sept. 6, 2016 and Sept. 6, 2018), the initial compliance date of Jan. 1, 2022, and the final compliance date of Jan. 1, 2030. On Sept. 27, 2016, the D.C. Circuit Court heard oral arguments.

Major Incentive Programs

The TCEQ implements several incentive programs aimed at reducing emissions, including the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan, the Texas Clean School Bus Program, and Drive a Clean Machine.

Texas Emissions Reduction Plan

The TERP gives financial incentives to owners and operators of heavy-duty vehicles and equipment for projects that will lower nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions. Because NO x is a leading contributor to the formation of ground-level ozone, reducing these emissions is key to achieving compliance with the federal ozone standard. Re cently 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 core incentive program since the TERP was established in 2001. DERI incentives have 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 2016, the DERI program awarded more than $1 billion for the upgrade or replacement of 17,629 heavy-duty vehicles, locomotives, marine vessels, and pieces of equipment. Over the life of these projects, 171,945 tons of NO x are projected to be reduced, which in 2016 equated to 43.29 tons per day.
  • The Texas Clean Fleet Program funds replacement of diesel vehicles with alternative-fuel or hybrid vehicles. From 2010 through August 2016, 20 grants funded 472 replacement vehicles for a total of $38.8 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 NO x by about 498 tons over the life of the projects.
  • The Clean Transportation Triangle Program (CTTP) 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 2016, the CTTP funded 34 grants for a total of $11.6 million.
  • The Texas Natural Gas Vehicle Grants Program provides grants for the replacement or repower of heavy- 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 CTTP. From 2012 through August 2016, the program funded 103 grants to replace 963 vehicles for a total of $44 million. These projects are projected to reduce more than 1,572 tons of NO x over the life of the projects. The program is accepting applications first come, first served through May 2017.
  • 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 2016, the program funded 69 grants for a total of $12.8 million.
  • The primary objective of the New Technology Implementation Grant Program is to offset the incremental cost of the implementation of existing technologies that reduce the emission of pollutants from facilities and other stationary sources that may also include energy-storage projects in Texas. From 2010 through August 2016, the program funded six grants for a total of $9.75 million.
  • The Drayage Truck Incentive Program was established by the Legislature in 2013 to fund the replacement of drayage trucks operating at seaports and railyards in Texas nonattainment areas with newer, less-polluting drayage trucks. Through August 2016, the program funded nine grants for the replacement of 47 vehicles, for a total of $3.9 million.

In addition, the TERP program implemented a short-term program established by the Legislature in 2013 that ended in fiscal 2015:

  • The Light-Duty Purchase or Lease Incentive Program provided up to $2,500 for the purchase of a light-duty vehicle operating on natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, or plug-in electric drive. Through August 2015, the program provided incentives for the purchase of 1,896 electric plug-in vehicles and 196 vehicles operating on compressed natural gas or propane, for a total $4.65 million. The program expired in August 2015.

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. The program also offers educational materials to school districts on other ways to reduce emissions, such as idling reduction. From 2008 to August 2016, the Texas Clean School Bus Program used state and federal funds to reimburse approximately $33 million in 227 grants to retrofit about 7,497 school buses in Texas.

TERP grants and activities are further detailed in a separate report, TERP Biennial Report 2015-2016 (TCEQ publication SFR-079/16).

Drive a Clean Machine

The Drive a Clean Machine program (see www.driveacleanmachine.org) was established in 2007 as part of the Low Income Vehicle Repair Assistance, Retrofit, and Accelerated Vehicle Retirement Program (LIRAP) to repair or remove older, higher emitting vehicles. The Drive a Clean Machine program is available to qualifying vehicle owners in participating counties 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 August 2016, qualifying vehicle owners have received more than $194 million. This funding helped replace 57,474 vehicles and repair 40,895 vehicles.

Local Initiative Projects

The Local Initiative Projects (LIP) program was established in 2007 to provide funding to counties participating in the LIRAP for implementation of air quality improvement strategies through local projects and initiatives. Projects are matched dollar-for-dollar by the local government, although the TCEQ may reduce the match for counties implementing programs to detect vehicle-emissions fraud (currently set at 25¢/dollar). From the LIP program’s debut in December 2007, more than $31 million has been appropriated to fund eligible projects in the participating counties. Recently funded projects include vehicle-emissions enforcement task forces; traffic-signal synchronization, networking, and management systems; and bus transit services.

Environmental Research and Development

The TCEQ supports cutting-edge scientific research to expand knowledge about air quality in Texas. The agency’s Air Quality Research Program (AQRP) continues to be engaged in a range of projects, which built upon scientific research on air quality from the previous biennium.

The AQRP was a major participant in 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 over Texas. The aircraft carried cutting-edge scientific instruments and collected over 50 hours of measurements of gaseous and particulate pollution, primarily in the Houston area.

As part of this major study designed to gain a better understanding of the factors that control air quality in Texas, additional ground-based air quality measurements were made simultaneously by researchers from collaborating organizations. This expansive data set and information collected during the study have been undergoing in-depth analysis, including extensive photochemical-modeling exercises during the past biennium. Many of the key findings include new insights into the complexities of air quality in the Houston area.

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

  • a series of projects designed to better characterize biogenic emissions including investigating impacts of drought conditions on ozone formation in Texas, improving land cover and emissions factors for biogenic isoprene for Texas air quality simulations, and incorporating space-borne observations
  • targeted improvements in the global fire emissions model used to simulate the role of fires in air quality
  • an assessment of remote sensing technologies to evaluate flare performance
  • a comprehensive report that summarizes the current state of scientific understanding of air quality in Texas based on findings from research projects carried out in 2010 through 2015
  • improved characterizations of boundary layer meteorology using radar wind profiler and balloon sounding measurements
  • an update and evaluation of the model algorithms needed to better predict formation of particulate matter from the isoprene emissions prevalent in eastern Texas and Louisiana
  • a study of the Bermuda High, a key driver of large- scale circulation patterns in southeastern Texas in sum mer, and its link to surface ozone in the Houston region

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:

  • numerous projects using state-of-the science technology to assess and address emissions from oil and gas activities, including aerial surveys or flyovers using a helicopter with an infrared VOC camera as a screening tool and a study to estimate emissions of ozone precursors from mobile sources associated with activities at Eagle Ford
  • continued sampling and analysis of particulate-matter chemical speciation, which is used to support documentation of exceptional impact at the Clinton Drive monitor in Houston and to quantify the contributions of African dust and smoke from southern Mexico and Central America
  • continued analysis of biomass burning and the impact on ozone in Texas, and research-grade photochemical modeling to support exceptional-event technical demonstrations
  • several projects designed to enhance the tools Texas uses to improve emissions inventories that reflect activities and sources in the state
  • a series of projects designed to improve the technical mechanics of the photochemical model to enhance overall model performance
  • investigations of tools for ozone-forecast modeling

The latest findings from these research projects help the state understand and appropriately address some of the challenging air quality issues faced by Texans as a result of changes to various standards for ambient air quality and other federal actions. These challenges are increasing, and addressing them will require continued emphasis on scientific understanding. This knowledge helps ensure that Texas adopts attainment strategies that are achievable, sound, and based on the most current science.