Apr 22, 2022 - News

Texas' failure to meet air quality standards could mean more regulation

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Texas has repeatedly failed to meet air quality standards and the Dallas-Fort Worth region will likely face more aggressive federal regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency as a result.

Why it matters: Air pollution is a serious threat to human health.

  • Nearly 200,000 people in Dallas County alone have asthma, including more than 40,000 children, according to the American Lung Association.

Driving the news: Dallas, Tarrant, Collin and Denton counties all received Fs in the ALA's latest "State of the Air" report on ground-level ozone.

  • The Houston area also received an F.
  • Travis County, where Austin is, got a D.
  • North Texas has also been classified as a "serious" violator of air quality standards every year since the newest EPA standards were put in place.

The big picture: The EPA recently proposed reclassifying both the Dallas and Houston metro areas as "severe" violators of 2008 federal ozone pollution standards, meaning the agency would likely impose stricter pollution controls like stricter air pollution permits and requiring businesses to install better pollution-control technology.

Between the lines: The fast-growing Texas cities have tended to expand outward, without much regulation or planning, essentially requiring residents to own a car in order to participate in the economy.

Flashback: A 2017 report from the Environmental Integrity Project found that Texas imposed penalties on less than 3% of illegal air pollution releases.

Zoom out: Over 137 million people nationwide are living in places with failing grades for unhealthy levels of particle pollution or ozone, per the ALA report.

  • That's 2.1 million more people breathing unhealthy air compared to last year's report.
  • Nearly 9 million more people were impacted by daily spikes in deadly particle pollution vs. last year.

What they're saying: "We have not taken enough initiative across the state to address the deadly pollution that being an industrial state has brought here," Elena Craft, associate vice president of climate and health at the Environmental Defense Fund, tells Axios.

  • "For as much as people here claim to be pro-life and to care about life, we have not prioritized this enough," Craft says.

What's next: The EPA will have a virtual hearing about reclassifying parts of Texas on May 9.


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