Ken Paxton Blows Smoke About Texas' Air Quality Improvements

Smoke gets in your eyes and other places.
Smoke gets in your eyes and other places.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has a fantastic announcement about Texas' air quality: It's great! In an announcement his office posted last week about his staunch refusal to follow the Environmental Protection Agency's new carbon regulations, he buries this inspiring news: 

 ...despite the past 15 years of rapid population and economic growth, nitrogen oxide and ozone levels are down and Texans are breathing cleaner air.

Sure, it's true that the state's ozone problem has improved, but so has the rest of the nation's. Texas still has some of the highest ozone levels in the nation, and its biggest counties have been out of compliance with the Clean Air Act for nearly two decades. Last fall, DFW finally got ozone pollution down to 81 ppb, a number that is better, yet still not compliant with the Clean Air Act, so there's that. (The current standard is 75 ppb, and the EPA is considering lowering that to 65-70 ppb.)

Paxton's joyous press release also has information on Texas' air quality above the Eagle Ford shale region, where drillers in South Texas have been fracking for natural gas: "Texas’ air monitoring system is so flawed that the state knows almost nothing about the extent of the pollution in the Eagle Ford," Paxton admits. "Only five permanent air monitors are installed in the 20,000-square-mile region, and all are at the fringes of the shale play, far from the heavy drilling areas where emissions are highest. Thousands of oil and gas facilities, including six of the nine produc ... " Wait. Hold on. This is embarrassing. That text is not from Paxton's office. That information is actually from an investigative report that a nonprofit environmental news agency published last year. Our bad. Back to the actual Paxton announcement:

Texas will defend its families and jobs from an overreaching federal government. Moreover, Texas has proven that you don’t have to destroy industry and jobs in order to protect the environment.

Texas conservatives have long made the dubious claim that the state is doing fine on its own when it comes to improving air quality, no thanks to the feds. During his first run for president, former Governor Rick Perry boasted “we cleaned up our air in Texas more than any other state, during the decade of the 2000s,” a claim politely called "exaggerated."

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