The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has a once-in-a-decade opportunity to make progress with our air quality.
They’re not taking it.
As the agency decides how it will implement a plan to address regional haze, a kind of air pollution that forms when sunlight hits tiny particles, they’re ignoring significant sources of pollution and failing to require any emissions reductions.
TCEQ must change the plan.
The Clean Air Act’s Regional Haze Rule is intended to protect national parks like Big Bend and Guadalupe Mountains from air pollution — crucial in Texas, the nation’s largest source of dangerous, unhealthy haze that drifts over our border all the way into Arkansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico.
This pollution endangers the health of park visitors, staff, nearby communities and wildlife. The dirty air costs parks economically, too. In 2019, Texas national parks contributed $492 million to the state economy, but a study finds that park visitation drops at least 8 percent when ozone pollution soars.
It’s clear: Poor air quality hurts our parks, our economy — and our health. A strong regional haze rule could help Texas achieve other necessary clean air goals while saving hundreds of lives and preventing thousands of asthma and cardiovascular events each year, but TCEQ’s plan falls disappointingly short.
Most glaring is that it fails to address the role played by notorious haze-causing polluters like NRG Energy’s W. A. Parish plant near Houston. Parish burns dirty coal and natural gas and is one of the largest sources in Texas of health-harming, climate-altering sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and carbon dioxide.
If unchanged, TCEQ’s plan will not make any reasonable progress in our air quality. It will do nothing to protect national parks in and around Texas, their visitors, their economies and the communities who live disproportionately already with the impacts from the sources of all this pollution, which harms their health before it travels hundreds of miles, affecting everyone else along the way.
Tell TCEQ that the plan must:
Address significant sources of haze-causing pollution
Include requirements to reduce pollution
Be revised before it is submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency