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Agency Activities: Air Quality (FY2019-2020)

The following summarizes the agency’s activities regarding criteria pollutant standards, requirements under various federal air quality standards, evaluating health effects, the Air Pollutant Watch List, shale oil and gas, regional haze, major incentive programs, and environmental research and development. (Part of Chapter 2—Biennial Report to the 87th Legislature, FY2019-FY2020)

Air Quality

Changes to Standards for Criteria Pollutants

Federal clean-air standards, or the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), cover six criteria air pollutants: ozone, particulate matter (PM), carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide (SO2). The federal Clean Air Act (CAA) requires the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review the standard for each criteria pollutant every five years to ensure that it achieves the required level of health and environmental protection. On March 18, 2019, EPA published its decision to retain the current NAAQS for SO2 without revision, effective April 17, 2019. On April 30, 2020, EPA published a proposal to retain, without changes, the current NAAQS for PM for both the primary and secondary standards. On Aug. 14, 2020, EPA published a proposal to retain the current eight-hour ozone NAAQS; EPA is in the process of reviewing the current NAAQS for lead.

As TCEQ develops plans—region by region—to address air quality issues, it revises the State Implementation Plan (SIP) and submits these revisions to EPA.

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Ozone Compliance Status

2008 Ozone Standard

On May 21, 2012, EPA published final designations for the 2008 eight-hour ozone standard of 0.075 parts per million (ppm). The Dallas–Fort Worth (DFW) area was designated "nonattainment," with a "moderate" classification, and the Houston-Galveston-Brazoria (HGB) area was designated "nonattainment," with a "marginal" classification. The HGB area did not attain the 2008 eight-hour ozone standard by its marginal attainment deadline and was reclassified to moderate nonattainment effective Dec. 14, 2016.

The DFW and HGB moderate nonattainment areas were required to attain the 2008 eight-hour ozone standard by July 20, 2018, with a 2017 attainment year, which is the year that the areas were required to measure attainment of the applicable standard. Because neither area attained by the end of 2017, EPA reclassified both the DFW and HGB 2008 eight-hour ozone moderate nonattainment areas to serious effective Sept. 23, 2019. The attainment date for serious nonattainment areas is July 20, 2021, with a 2020 attainment year. Serious classification attainment demonstrations and reasonable further progress SIP revisions were developed for both areas and submitted to EPA before the Aug. 3, 2020, deadline. If the areas do not attain by the end of 2020, EPA may reclassify the areas to severe nonattainment.

2015 Ozone Standard

In October 2015, EPA finalized the 2015 eight-hour ozone standard of 0.070 ppm. EPA was expected to make final designations by Oct. 1, 2017, using design values from 2014 through 2016. On Nov. 16, 2017, EPA designated a majority of Texas as attainment/unclassifiable for the 2015 eight-hour ozone NAAQS. On June 4, 2018, EPA published final designations for the remaining areas, except for the eight counties that compose the San Antonio area. Consistent with state designation recommendations, EPA finalized nonattainment designations for a nine-county DFW marginal nonattainment area (Collin, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, Johnson, Kaufman, Parker, Tarrant, and Wise counties) and a six-county HGB marginal nonattainment area (Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, and Montgomery counties). EPA designated all the remaining counties, except those in the San Antonio area, as attainment/unclassifiable. The designations are effective Aug. 3, 2018.

Table 3. Ozone-Compliance Status for the 2015 Eight-Hour Standard

Area of Texas 2015 Eight-Hour Ozone Attainment Deadline
HGB (six-county area) Marginal Nonattainment Aug. 3, 2021
DFW (nine-county area) Marginal Nonattainment Aug. 3, 2021
San Antonio (Bexar County) Marginal Nonattainment Sept. 24, 2021
All Other Texas Counties Attainment Not Applicable

Note: The HGB 2015 ozone nonattainment area comprises the counties of Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, and Montgomery. The DFW 2015 ozone nonattainment area comprises the counties of Collin, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, Johnson, Kaufman, Parker, Tarrant, and Wise.

On July 17, 2018, EPA designated Bexar County as nonattainment, and the seven other San Antonio area counties—Atascosa, Bandera, Comal, Guadalupe, Kendall, Medina, and Wilson—as attainment/unclassifiable.

The attainment deadline for the DFW and HGB marginal nonattainment areas is Aug. 3, 2021, with a 2020 attainment year. The attainment deadline for the Bexar County marginal nonattainment area is Sept. 24, 2021, with a 2020 attainment year. If the areas do not attain by the end of 2020, EPA may reclassify them to moderate nonattainment. On June 10, 2020, the commission adopted an emissions inventory (EI) SIP revision for the 2015 eight-hour ozone NAAQS for the HGB, DFW, and Bexar County nonattainment areas. It was submitted to EPA on June 24, 2020. On July 1, 2020, the commission adopted a CAA, Section 179B, demonstration SIP revision to demonstrate that the Bexar County marginal nonattainment area would attain the 2015 eight-hour ozone standard by its attainment deadline were it not for anthropogenic emissions emanating from outside the United States. It was submitted to EPA on July 13, 2020.

In August 2018, the City of Sunland Park, New Mexico, and environmental petitioners challenged EPA's attainment/unclassifiable designation for El Paso County in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals (Clean Wisconsin v. EPA, No. 18-1203). On July 10, 2020, the court granted EPA's request for voluntary remand (without vacatur) for the El Paso County attainment designation to EPA, requiring EPA to issue a revised El Paso County designation as expeditiously as practicable.

Also, in August 2018, the State of Texas and TCEQ sued EPA, challenging EPA's nonattainment designation for Bexar County in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Environmental Petitioners also sued EPA for its designation of attainment/unclassifiable for the seven other San Antonio area counties—Atascosa, Bandera, Comal, Guadalupe, Kendall, Medina, and Wilson; and the litigation was consolidated in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Oral argument in the San Antonio area counties consolidated case was held Oct. 9, 2019, so a decision could be released at any time.

Types of Sources. Emissions that affect air quality can be characterized by their sources. Point sources: examples include industrial facilities such as refineries and cement plants. Area sources: examples include dry cleaners, gasoline stations, and residential heating. On-road mobile sources: cars and trucks. Non-road mobile sources: examples include construction equipment, locomotives, and marine vessels.

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Redesignation for Revoked Ozone Standards

On Feb. 16, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued an opinion in the case South Coast Air Quality Management District v. EPA, 882 F.3d 1138 (D.C. Cir. 2018). The case was a challenge to EPA's final 2008 eight-hour ozone standard SIP requirements rule, which revoked the 1997 eight-hour ozone NAAQS as part of the implementation of the 2008 eight-hour ozone NAAQS. To address the potential impacts of the court's ruling, TCEQ developed and submitted a redesignation request and maintenance plan SIP revisions for four areas:

  • HGB Area One-Hour and 1997 Eight-Hour Ozone NAAQS Redesignation Request and Maintenance Plan SIP Revision, submitted to EPA on Dec. 14, 2018.
  • Beaumont–Port Arthur (BPA) Area One-Hour Ozone NAAQS Redesignation Request and Maintenance Plan and 1997 Eight-Hour Ozone Second 10-Year Maintenance Plan SIP Revision, submitted to EPA on Feb. 6, 2019.
  • DFW Area One-Hour and 1997 Eight-Hour Ozone NAAQS Redesignation Request and Maintenance Plan SIP Revision, submitted to EPA on April 5, 2019.
  • El Paso Area One-Hour Ozone NAAQS Redesignation Request and Maintenance Plan SIP Revision, submitted to EPA on May 10, 2019.

In early 2020, EPA published final actions on the HGB and DFW submittals, determining that both areas met all criteria for redesignation. The actions removed anti-backsliding requirements and approved the maintenance plans for both areas for both revoked standards. On June 8, 2020, EPA proposed to approve the BPA second 10-year maintenance plan for the 1997 eight-hour ozone standard. EPA published its final action on Sept. 2, 2020. However, EPA has taken the position that it lacks the authority to redesignate areas to attainment under revoked standards. In response to this position, TCEQ plans to withdraw the remaining portion of the BPA submittal and the El Paso submittal relating to the redesignation request and maintenance plan for the one-hour ozone standard from EPA review. EPA's final approvals have been challenged by environmental groups in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and in the Fifth Circuit (protective petition). Texas has intervened in support of EPA's final actions.

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2010 SO2 Standard

EPA revised the SO2 NAAQS in June 2010, adding a one-hour primary standard of 75 parts per billion. In July 2013, EPA designated 29 areas in 16 states, which did not include Texas, as nonattainment for the 2010 standard. On March 2, 2015, a U.S. district court order set a deadline for EPA to complete an additional three rounds of designations for the SO2 NAAQS.

In Round 2, EPA was required to designate by July 2, 2016, any areas monitoring violations or with the largest SO2 sources fitting specific criteria for SO2 emissions. EPA identified 12 sources in Texas meeting these criteria for Round 2 designations. EPA designated Atascosa (San Miguel), Fort Bend (W.A. Parish), Goliad (Coleto Creek), Lamb (Tolk), Limestone (Limestone Station), McLennan (Sandy Creek), and Robertson (Twin Oaks) counties as unclassifiable/attainment and designated Potter County (Harrington) as unclassifiable, effective Sept. 12, 2016. On Dec. 13, 2016, EPA published a supplement to the Round 2 SO2 designations for the remaining four EPA-identified Texas power plants—Big Brown, Martin Lake, Monticello, and Sandow. Effective Jan. 12, 2017, portions of Freestone and Anderson counties (Big Brown), portions of Rusk and Panola counties (Martin Lake), and a portion of Titus County (Monticello) were designated nonattainment. Milam County was designated unclassifiable.

Sources with more than 2,000 tons per year (tpy) of SO2 emissions not designated in 2016 would be designated based on modeling by December 2017 in Round 3 or monitoring data by December 2020 in Round 4. In accordance with the August 2015 Data Requirements Rule, Texas identified 24 sources with 2014 SO2 emissions of 2,000 tpy or more, which included the 12 sources identified in Round 2. TCEQ evaluated the Oklaunion facility in Wilbarger County through modeling submitted to EPA for designation in Round 3. EPA completed Round 3 designations for the 2010 SO2 NAAQS, effective April 9, 2018, designating Wilbarger County as unclassifiable/attainment along with unclassifiable/attainment designations for 237 other counties or portions of counties in Texas. The areas designated unclassifiable/attainment in Anderson, Panola, Rusk, and Freestone counties are the parts of those counties not previously designated nonattainment in Round 2.

All remaining areas not designated in Rounds 2 or 3 will be designated in Round 4, including the following areas of Texas, currently being monitored: Jefferson, Hutchinson, Navarro, Bexar, Howard, Harrison, and Titus (remaining partial area) counties.

In October 2017, Luminant (Vistra Energy) filed notices with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) stating its plans to retire the Monticello, Sandow, and Big Brown power generation plants. TCEQ voided permits for these three plants on March 30, 2018. Big Brown and Monticello were the primary SO2 emissions sources of the areas designated nonattainment in Anderson, Freestone, and Titus counties. The Martin Lake plant, in the nonattainment area in Rusk and Panola counties, continues to operate.

On Aug. 22, 2019, EPA proposed error corrections to revise the designations of portions of Freestone, Anderson, Rusk, Panola, and Titus counties from nonattainment to unclassifiable. On April 27, 2020, Sierra Club filed suit against EPA regarding EPA not finding that Texas failed to submit attainment demonstrations for the three nonattainment areas. EPA published its finding of failure to submit for these three nonattainment areas on Aug. 10, 2020. On June 30, 2020, TCEQ sent a letter to EPA requesting clean data determinations for the areas surrounding the Big Brown and Monticello facilities. A clean data determination by EPA is required before the areas can be redesignated to attainment.

On June 26, 2020, TCEQ sent a letter to EPA requesting that Milam County be redesignated from unclassifiable to attainment. On Aug. 13, 2020, EPA provided notification to Gov. Abbott of its proposed designations for the remaining undesignated areas (Round 4 of the designations). EPA intends to designate Howard, Hutchinson, and Navarro counties as nonattainment; Bexar, Harrison, Jefferson, and Robertson counties, as well as the remaining undesignated portion of Titus county, as attainment/unclassifiable; and Orange county as unclassifiable. EPA must finalize the Round 4 designations by Dec. 31, 2020.

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Evaluating Health Effects

TCEQ toxicologists meet their goals of identifying chemical hazards, evaluating potential exposures, assessing human health risks, and communicating risk to the general public and stakeholders in a variety of ways. Perhaps most notably, TCEQ relies on health- and welfare-protective values developed by its toxicologists to ensure that both permitted and monitored airborne concentrations of pollutants stay below levels of concern. Final values for 324 pollutants have been derived so far. Texas has received compliments about these values from numerous federal agencies and academic institutions, and many other states and countries use TCEQ's toxicity values.

TCEQ toxicologists use the health- and welfare-protective values it derives for air monitoring—called air monitoring comparison values (AMCVs)—to evaluate the public-health risk of millions of measurements of air pollutant concentrations collected from the ambient air monitoring network throughout the year.

When necessary, TCEQ also conducts health-effects research on particular chemicals with limited or conflicting information. In fiscal 2018 and 2019, specific work evaluating arsenic, particulate matter <2.5 µm (PM2.5), ethylene oxide, and ozone was completed. This work can inform the review and assessment of state and federal air quality regulations, of human-health risk of air, water, or soil samples collected during investigations and remediation, as well as aid in communicating health risk to the public.

Finally, toxicologists communicate risk and toxicology with state and federal legislators and their committees, EPA, other government agencies, the press, and judges during legal proceedings. This often includes input on EPA rulemaking, including the NAAQS, through written comments, meetings, and scientific publications.

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Air Pollutant Watch List

TCEQ toxicologists oversee the Air Pollutant Watch List activities that result when ambient pollutant concentrations exceed these protective levels. TCEQ routinely reviews and conducts health-effects evaluations of ambient air monitoring data from across the state by comparing air toxic concentrations to their respective AMCVs or state standards. TCEQ evaluates areas for inclusion on the Air Pollutant Watch List where monitored concentrations of air toxics are persistently measured above AMCVs or state standards.

The purpose of the watch list is to reduce air toxic concentrations below levels of concern by focusing TCEQ resources and heightening awareness of interested parties in areas of concern.

TCEQ also uses the watch list to identify companies with the potential for contributing to elevated ambient air toxic concentrations and to then develop strategic actions to reduce emissions. An area's inclusion on the watch list results in more stringent permitting, priority in investigations, and in some cases increased monitoring.

Four areas of the state are currently on the watch list, which is available at TCEQ continues to evaluate the current APWL areas to determine whether improvements in air quality have occurred. TCEQ has also identified areas in other parts of the state with monitoring data close or slightly above AMCVs and worked proactively with nearby companies to reduce air toxic concentrations, obviating the need for listing these areas on the APWL.

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Oil and Gas: Boom of Shale Plays

The early activities associated with the Barnett Shale formation in the Dallas–Fort Worth area presented an unusual challenge for TCEQ, considering that this was the first time that a significant number of natural gas production and storage facilities were built and operated in Texas within heavily populated areas. In response, TCEQ initiated improved collection of emissions data from oil and gas production areas.

A shale play is a defined geographic area containing an organic-rich, fine-grained sedimentary rock with specific characteristics. The shale forms from the compaction of silt and clay-size mineral particles commonly called mud.

TCEQ conducts in-depth measurements at all shale formations to evaluate the potential effects. TCEQ continues to conduct surveys and investigations at oil and gas sites using optical gas imaging camera (OGIC) technology and other monitoring instruments.

The monitoring, on-site investigations, and enforcement activities in the shale areas also complement increased air-permitting activities. The additional field activities include additional stationary monitors, increased collections of ambient air canister samples, flyovers using OGIC imaging, targeted mobile monitoring, and investigations (routine and complaint-driven).

One vital aspect in responding to shale-play activities is the need for abundant and timely communications with all interested parties. TCEQ has relied on community open houses, meetings with the public, county judges and other elected officials, workshops for local governments and industry, town-hall meetings, legislative briefings, and guidance documents. For example, the agency recently issued a new publication, Flaring at Oil and Natural Gas Production Sites (TCEQ GI-457). This brochure is designed to provide a helpful starting point for discussions with citizens; TCEQ staff can then provide more details as needed with each person. The agency also maintains a multimedia website, , with links to rules, monitoring data, environmental-complaint procedures, regulatory guidance, and frequently asked questions.

TCEQ continues to evaluate its statewide network for air quality monitoring and will expand those operations when needed. Fifteen automatic-gas-chromatograph monitors operate in the Barnett Shale area, along with numerous other instruments that monitor for criteria pollutants. In addition, 16 VOC canister samplers (taking samples every sixth day) are located throughout TCEQ Region 3 (Abilene) and Region 4 (Dallas–Fort Worth).

In South Texas, the agency has established a precursor ozone monitoring station in Floresville (Wilson County), north of the Eagle Ford Shale; the station began operating on July 18, 2013. Another monitoring station has been established in Karnes City, which is in Karnes County; this station was activated on Dec. 17, 2014. Karnes County continues to lead the Eagle Ford Shale play in production and drilling activities. The data from these monitoring stations are used to help determine whether the shale oil and gas play is contributing to ozone formation in the San Antonio area. It should be noted that existing monitors located within the Barnett Shale and Eagle Ford Shale plays have not indicated that pollutant levels are of sufficient concentration or duration to be harmful to residents.

In response to observed increases in oil and gas activity and reported emission events across the Permian Basin Geological Area, TCEQ conducted two mobile monitoring surveys for hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide in December 2019, and February 2020. The results of the surveys were used to site three new monitoring stations in the Goldsmith, West Odessa, and Midland areas that will monitor for hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide, and VOCs.

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Regional Haze

Guadalupe Mountains and Big Bend national parks are identified by the federal government for visibility protection, along with 154 other national parks and wilderness areas. Regional Haze is a long-term air quality program requiring states to develop plans to meet a goal of natural visibility conditions by 2064. In Texas, the primary visibility-impairing pollutants are NOX, SO2, and PM. Regional Haze program requirements include a Regional Haze SIP revision that is due to EPA every 10 years and a progress report due every five years, to demonstrate progress toward natural conditions.

The first Texas Regional Haze SIP revision was submitted to EPA in 2009. In 2016, EPA finalized a partial disapproval of that plan and proposed a federal implementation plan (FIP) that would have required emissions control upgrades or emissions limits at eight coal-fired power plants in Texas. In July 2016, Texas and other petitioners, contending that EPA acted outside its statutory authority, sought a stay pending review of the FIP, which was granted by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Due to continuing issues with the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, EPA could not act on best available retrofit technology (BART) requirements for electric utility generating units (EGUs). On March 20, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued a ruling upholding "CSAPR-better-than-BART" for Regional Haze.

On Oct. 17, 2017, EPA adopted a FIP to address BART for EGUs in Texas, which included an alternative trading program for SO2. EPA will administer the trading program, which includes only specific EGUs in Texas and no out-of-state trading. For NOX, Texas remains in CSAPR. For PM, EPA determined that no further action was required. On June 29, 2020, EPA finalized the amended BART intrastate trading program FIP for Texas, and the trading program was affirmed as an alternative to BART requirements for certain sources in Texas.

Texas' first five-year progress report on regional haze was submitted to EPA in March 2014. It contained all of the following:

  • A summary of emissions reductions achieved from the plan.
  • An assessment of visibility conditions and changes for each Class I area in Texas that Texas may affect.
  • An analysis of emissions reductions by pollutant.
  • A review of Texas' visibility-monitoring strategy and any necessary modifications.

On Jan. 10, 2017, EPA published the final Regional Haze Rule Amendments to update aspects of the reasonably available visibility impairment (RAVI) and regional haze programs, including all of the following:

  • Strengthening the federal land manager consultation requirements.
  • Extending the RAVI requirements so that all states must address situations where a single source or small number of sources is affecting visibility at a Class I area.
  • Extending the SIP submittal deadline for the second planning period from July 31, 2018, to July 31, 2021, to allow states to consider planning for other federal programs like the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, the 2010 one-hour SO2 NAAQS, and the 2012 annual PM2.5 NAAQS.
  • Adjusting the interim progress report submission deadline so that second progress reports would be due by Jan. 31, 2025.
  • Removing the requirement for progress reports to be SIP revisions.

In January 2018, EPA announced it would revisit the 2017 amendment to the Regional Haze Rule, though no formal action has been taken regarding the rule.

The second Regional Haze SIP is due to EPA in July 2021 and is currently scheduled to go before the commission in October 2020.

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Major Incentive Programs

TCEQ implements several incentive programs aimed at reducing emissions, including the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan and the Texas Clean School Bus Program.

Texas Emissions Reduction Plan

The Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP) program gives financial incentives to owners and operators of heavy-duty vehicles and equipment for projects that will lower nitrogen oxide (NOX) emissions. Because NOX is a leading contributor to the formation of ground-level ozone, reducing these emissions is key to achieving compliance with the federal ozone standard. Incentive programs under TERP also support the increased use of alternative fuels for transportation in Texas, including fueling infrastructure.

  • The Diesel Emissions Reduction Incentive (DERI) Program has been the core incentive program since the TERP was established, in 2001. DERI incentives have focused largely on the ozone nonattainment areas of Dallas–Fort Worth and Houston-Galveston-Brazoria. Funding has also been awarded to projects in the Tyler-Longview-Marshall, San Antonio, Beaumont–Port Arthur, Austin, Corpus Christi, El Paso, and Victoria areas. (Note: Victoria was removed as an eligible area during the 86th Texas Legislature, Regular Session, 2019.) From 2001 through August 2020, the DERI program awarded over $1 billion for the upgrade or replacement of 19,955 heavy-duty vehicles, locomotives, marine vessels, and pieces of equipment. Over the life of these projects, over 183,434 tons of NOX are projected to be reduced, which in 2020 equated to approximately 20 tons per day. TCEQ expects to award additional grants under the DERI program in fiscal 2021.
  • The Texas Clean Fleet Program (TCFP) funds replacement of diesel vehicles with alternative-fuel or hybrid vehicles. From 2009 through August 2020, 32 grants funded 682 replacement vehicles for a total of over $61 million. These projects included a range of alternative-fuel vehicles, such as propane school buses, natural gas refuse trucks, hybrid delivery vehicles and refuse trucks, and electric vehicles. These projects are projected to reduce NOX by over 666 tons over the life of the projects. TCEQ expects to award additional grants under the TCFP in fiscal 2021.
  • The Alternative Fueling Facilities Program (AFFP) provides grants to ensure that alternative-fuel vehicles have access to fuel and to build the foundation for a self-sustaining market for alternative fuels in Texas. In 2017, the Clean Transportation Triangle program was incorporated into the AFFP and the area of eligibility was designated the Clean Transportation Zone. From 2012 through August 2020, the AFFP and predecessor programs have provided over $22 million in grants to establish or upgrade 142 natural gas, electric, or other alternative fueling facilities, including 82 electric charging stations, 40 CNG stations, four stations providing CNG and LNG, one station providing CNG and electric charging, seven stations providing LPG, and eight biodiesel stations, four of which also provide electric charging. TCEQ expects to award additional grants under the AFFP in fiscal 2021.
  • The Texas Natural Gas Vehicle Grants Program (TNGVGP) provides grants for the replacement or repower of heavy- or medium-duty diesel- or gasoline-powered vehicles with natural gas- or liquid petroleum gas-powered vehicles and engines. Eligible vehicles must be operated within the clean transport zone counties. From 2009 through August 2020, the program funded 145 grants to replace 1,210 vehicles for a total of over $56 million. These projects are projected to reduce over 1,695 tons of NOX over the life of the projects. The TNGVGP is currently open and accepting applications through February 2021, or until all available funds have been awarded.
  • The primary objective of the New Technology Implementation Grant (NTIG) Program is to offset the incremental cost of the implementation of existing technologies that reduce the emission of pollutants from facilities and other stationary sources that may also include energy-storage projects in Texas. From 2010 through August 2020, the program funded nine grants for a total of over $12 million. TCEQ expects to award additional grants under the NTIG in fiscal 2021.
  • The Seaport and Rail Yard Areas Emissions Reduction (SPRY) Program was established by the Legislature in 2013 to fund the replacement of drayage trucks and cargo-handling equipment operating at seaports and rail yards in Texas nonattainment areas with newer, less-polluting drayage trucks. From 2015 through August 2020, the program has funded 89 grants for the replacement of 261 trucks and pieces of cargo-handling equipment, for a total of over $19 million. It is estimated that these projects will reduce over 952 tons of NOX in eligible Texas seaports and rail yards over the life of the projects. The SPRY program is currently open and accepting applications until February 2021, or until all available funds have been awarded.
  • The Light-Duty Motor Vehicle Purchase or Lease Incentive Program (LDPLIP) was established by the Legislature in 2013. The program provides up to $5,000 for the purchase of a light-duty vehicle operating on natural gas or propane, and up to $2,500 for the purchase of a plug-in hybrid, electric drive, or hydrogen powered vehicle. From 2014 through August 2020, the program has provided incentives for the purchase of 4,607 electric plug-in vehicles and 265 vehicles operating on compressed natural gas or propane, for a total of over $11 million. The program is currently open and accepting applications through January 2021, or until all available funds have been awarded.
  • The Governmental Alternative Fuel Fleet (GAFF) Program was established by the Legislature in 2017 to help state agencies, political subdivisions, and transit or school transportation providers fund the replacement or upgrade of their vehicle fleets to alternative fuels, including natural gas, propane, hydrogen fuel cells, and electricity. The first grant round for the GAFF program will open in fiscal 2021.

TERP grants and activities are further detailed in a separate report, TERP Biennial Report to the Texas Legislature (TCEQ publication SFR-079/18).

Texas Clean School Bus Program

The Texas Clean School Bus Program (TCSBP) aims to reduce diesel exhaust emissions inside and around school buses throughout the state. From 2008 to August 2020, the TCSBP reimbursed over $30 million to retrofit 7,560 school buses in Texas. From September 2017 through August 2020, the TCSBP awarded over $14 million to replace 234 school buses across the state.

Texas Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Program

In December 2017, Gov. Greg Abbott selected TCEQ as the lead agency responsible for the administration of funds received from the Volkswagen State Environmental Mitigation Trust. A minimum of $209 million dollars will be made available for projects that mitigate the additional NOX emissions resulting from specific vehicles using defective devices to pass emissions tests. From 2019 through August 2020, 164 grants funded 1,097 replacement vehicles for a total of over $73 million. These projects included a range of vehicles, such as school buses, transit buses, refuse trucks, local delivery vehicles, and port drayage vehicles. These projects are projected to reduce NOX by over 1,051 tons over the life of the projects. TCEQ expects to award additional grants under the Texas Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Program in fiscal 2021.

Drive a Clean Machine

The Drive a Clean Machine program was established in 2007 as part of the Low Income Vehicle Repair Assistance, Retrofit, and Accelerated Vehicle Retirement Program (LIRAP) to repair or remove older, higher-emitting vehicles. The Drive a Clean Machine (DACM) program is available to qualifying vehicle owners in 16 participating counties in the areas of HGB, DFW, and Austin–Round Rock. The counties in these areas conduct annual inspections of vehicle emissions. From the program's debut in December 2007 through August 2019, qualifying vehicle owners have received more than $236 million. This funding helped replace 69,965 vehicles and repair 47,122.

Following the governor's veto of the appropriations funding for LIRAP and the Local Initiative Projects program for fiscal biennium 2018–19, all 16 participating counties opted out and collection of the LIRAP fee has been terminated. Funding carried over from fiscal biennium 2016–17 appropriations continued to be used for the DACM program until Aug. 31, 2019.

Local Initiative Projects

The Local Initiative Projects (LIP) program was established in 2007 to provide funding to counties participating in LIRAP for implementation of air quality improvement strategies through local projects and initiatives. Projects are funded both by TCEQ from LIRAP appropriations and through a dollar-for-dollar match by the local government, although TCEQ may reduce the match for counties implementing programs to detect vehicle-emissions fraud (currently set at 25¢/dollar). Since the LIP program's debut in December 2007, more than $31 million has been appropriated to fund eligible projects in the participating counties. Recently funded projects include vehicle-emissions enforcement task forces, traffic-signal synchronization, and bus transit services.

Although all 16 counties participating in LIRAP have opted out, LIP funding carried over from fiscal biennium 2016–17 appropriations continued to be used for the LIP program until Aug. 31, 2019.

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Environmental Research and Development

TCEQ supports scientific research to study air quality in Texas. The Air Quality Research Program (AQRP) funds projects that build on research from the previous biennium.

The AQRP and TCEQ sponsored a field campaign during May 2017 to study ozone in the San Antonio area. Ongoing analysis of atmospheric chemistry and meteorology measurements collected during this study will allow a better understanding of ozone in this area.

Other important air quality research carried out through the AQRP has included the following:

  • Projects that examine the impact of wildfires and agricultural burning on air quality in Texas, including fires outside Texas and the United States.
  • Improvements in the tools used to estimate biogenic volatile organic compound emissions in Texas.
  • Emission inventory improvements for the Mexican energy sector and projections of emissions in future years.

In addition to research carried out through the AQRP, TCEQ used grants and contracts to support ongoing air quality research. Notable projects have included:

  • Analyses of fire impacts on Texas air quality using different modeling and measurement methods, with an emphasis on identifying exceptional events that may affect air quality.
  • Updating inventories for emissions from flash tanks, asphalt paving, ocean-going tanker-vessel lightering (i.e., transferring liquids from one tanker to another), aircraft, rail yards, and fuel use from multiple sectors.
  • Improving the boundary conditions used in ozone modeling in Texas by updating the chemistry and evaluating various configurations of the model.
  • Measurements of biogenic VOC emissions and improvements of the tools used to estimate those emissions both inside Texas and throughout the ozone-modeling domain.
  • Monitoring studies in El Paso to understand contributions to various pollutants from within and outside the United States.

The latest findings from these research projects help the state understand and appropriately address some of the challenging air quality issues faced by Texans. These challenges are increasing, in part due to changes in air quality standards, and addressing them will require continued research. This knowledge helps ensure that Texas adopts attainment strategies that are achievable, sound, and based on the most current information.

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