Here in DFW, we've paid the price of continuing dirty air for the state's bias toward blaming all air quality problems in DFW on cars. As cars got so much cleaner, all of our smog problems were supposed to literally go "poof." This was almost the entire basis of the just-failed TCEQ clean air plan, and it didn't work. Turns out, there might be more causing our smog problems than just cars.
Nevertheless, the bias persists because the ideological slant of the TCEQ's boss, Governor Perry, won't allow it to pursue a more balanced approach. Via the Houston Chronicle comes the latest way it's getting expressed in bad public policy – by letting pollution control measures be paid off by fees on individual drivers instead of fines assessed against large polluters that are targeted specifically for that purpose.
"The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is asking the federal government for permission to waive fines for the region's 260 chemical plants, oil refineries and other large facilities.
The commission argues that it should not have to collect those fines because it already is raising money for smog-fighting programs through vehicle inspection fees and sales taxes for diesel equipment, among other revenue sources.
For years, the fees and taxes have funded a program that helps cover the cost of replacing or retrofitting dirty, old vehicles and equipment, such as locomotives, haul trucks and tugboats. The program has helped to improve air quality in the state's smoggiest cities."
The cover story for doing this is that the Commission would much rather the fine money be spent on actual pollution controls at the offending facilities – though there is nothing, especially the TCEQ, to make them do so – and that consumers would just pay the price down the line. We don't know what's more insulting – the incredibly thin and flimsy veneer of these excuses, or that the TCEQ expects any one to believe this clap-trap, which comes right out of our failed Governor's presidential campaign. What ever happened to getting tough on crime?
As for industry, well, it's just downright unfair Houston industry has to pay any fines at all for being out of compliance with a Carter-era ozone standard! Those that have seen the slides of Houston air pollution blowing into DFW will be particularly bedazzled by this plea from a corporate attorney,
"Jed Anderson, a Houston-based attorney who represents industry in regulatory matters, said the commission's proposal is a fairer distribution of the burden because cars and trucks produce so much smog-forming emissions. Even then, he said Houston should not have to pay at all, saying the amount of pollution that blows into Texas from other countries is enough to push the region out of compliance for ozone."
Funny, that's what TCEQ and their DFW local flunkies say about y'all. In fact, at the turn of the current century, DFW tried to get a pass for violating the ozone standard because, if you didn't count the stuff coming in from Space City, we would have, you know, theoretically been able to meet it.
Sorry Mr. Joe and Joann Six-Pack, but if you drive an inspected car that gets 70-90% pollution removal and deposits a thousand or so pounds of air pollution a year, you're not a constituent of TCEQ, you're the enemy.
On the other hand, if you operate a facility that not only pollutes the air with millions of pounds of pollution because you won't install the best equipment, but has also been breaking the law, "Right this way, Monsieur." Environmental Defense Fund's Dr. Elena Craft says in the Chronicle piece, "The commission is basically doing everything it can not to collect fines from industry" – and everything in its power to once again put the onus on drivers.