East Harris County Officials Come Together to Discuss Clear Air Act

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On February 11, the 19th Annual Hot Air Topics (HAT) conference took place in Houston, hosted by the Air & Waste Management Association-Gulf Coast Chapter. The event featured local officials and regulatory experts as they discussed the recent changes included in the Clean Air Act, and the effects these changes will have on our industry and surrounding communities.

The conference highlighted the need to find a solution that balances both clean air initiatives while maintaining steady jobs within the communities. Featured keynote speaker David Schoenbrod, Professor at New York Law School, called for bold changes to the CAA. “Congress needs to find a bold new way, such as market-based control of pollution to replace the bureaucracy and red tape of a top down dictate, the Clean Air Act,” said Schoenbrod.

During the conference, the Honorable Jerry Mouton, Mayor of the City of Deer Park, and the Honorable Stephen DonCarlos, Mayor of the City of Baytown, cautioned the potential negative impacts of EPA’s new ozone standard on their communities.

“I live one mile from a major petrochemical facility,” said Mouton, “so clean air is very important to me, along with jobs for my city. We can have both clean air and jobs. Using new technology, industry is improving air quality while expanding plants and creating new jobs.”

Mouton and DonCarlos provided suggestions for better coordination to implement policies that recognize background and mobile source contributions to ozone, while not penalizing local governments and communities with a restricted economy and potential transportation funding sanctions.

“Seventy-two percent of air emissions are from mobile sources,” noted DonCarlos. “With the current growth rate in the Houston area, mobile sources will continue to be a major problem. My suggestion would be to concentrate on incentivizing mass transit in nonattainment areas like Houston.”

Both mayors touched on the advances that our industry has made to help increase the air quality, and cited the Greater Houston region as the model for attaining clean air and maintaining a robust economy. “EPA data shows our air is cleaner today than it has been in 30 years,” said DonCarlos. “That is due in large part to control measures already implemented by industry.”

At the end of the conference, one thing was clear. There is a need to strike a balance between reasonable and consistent regulations that will allow for both superior air quality and sustainable industry growth.