It was early November when watchdog group Downwinders At Risk found out that Dallas-Fort Worth had set off air-quality monitors more times than Houston in 2011. Yep, America's petrochemical hub violated EPA standards less often than we did. Depressing, right?
As you may recall, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality was set to submit a State Implementation Plan to the EPA outlining how it intends to curb smog. In DFW, emissions from vehicles account for half of all ozone-causing pollution. TCEQ's proposed fix? "Fleet turnover," which is a fancy way of saying, "Golly, we hope Texans buy a bunch of new cars with all that extra money they have lying around."
Incentives for the public to buy newer, cleaner-burning cars were instituted. Or they were, anyway, until the 82nd Legislature gutted funding for the Drive A Clean Machine Program by 88 percent. We guess it's up to the Invisible Hand of the Market to fight pollution now.
Imagine our surprise, then, when we learned from Downwinders director Jim Schermbeck that TCEQ says its computer models predict this proposed plan -- in large part castrated by an environmental regulation-detesting legislature and a governor with designs on the White House -- could result in the lowest levels of smog DFW has seen since we began monitoring air quality.
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"That sounds like quite a challenge, especially with the Texas drought continuing," Schermbeck began, "until you factor in that Hell will be freezing as well, cooling everything off in general.
"Our own computer modeling shows that by next summer pigs will be flying and Kim Kardashian will be married for life."
So, we guess that means Schermbeck is skeptical. Fair enough. After all, no previous plan has ever brought the region into compliance with air quality standards. And even after the president shelved more stringent standards proposed by the EPA in the interest of removing obstacles to a lurching economy in September, we've consistently failed to meet the old ones.
"They don't want to impose anything that would look like heavy handed regulation on industry," Schermbeck says. Here's the Downwinders' look-see at reality versus fiction.