Senator Ellis, other legislators and public officials want to Clean-up Texas’ Air

Clean Cars Bill Would Reduce Pollution, Save Consumers Money, and help Texas Comply with federal law avoiding federal sanctions

AUSTIN – Today, Texas Senator Rodney Ellis filed Senate Bill 124, the Texas Vehicle Emissions bill, which will reduce air pollution from cars and trucks, save consumers money at the gas pump, boost our economy and clean up our state’s air and making it much healthier to breath.  Representative Mark Strama filed a companion bill in the House, House Bill 344.  Supporters of the proposal include Mayors Bill White of Houston, Laura Miller of Dallas and Mike Moncrief of Ft. Worth.

SB 124, also known, as the “Clean Cars Program,” would implement a low-emission vehicle program consistent with other major states.

“Texas has been one of the largest polluters for a very long time.  Many of our metropolitan areas are in non-attainment areas and are being penalized and fined by the federal government for not meeting the Clean Air Act standards,” said Senator Ellis.  “This legislation will require automakers to sell us the same clean cars and light trucks required in 11 other states.  It will reduce pollution and save us all money at the pump.”

"Texans are first class citizens and it is only fair that the clean cars made at the GM plant in Arlington Texas be driven by more Texans - not just shipped and sold to the 11 states with stricter standards. Clean cars will cut air pollution in Texas by ten of thousands of tons each year.  According the American Lung Association these pollutants are linked to asthma, other respiratory illnesses, heart conditions and cancer," said Senator Ellis.

"This is a common sense step that we can take to reduce air pollution and take advantage of the best available automotive technology," said Representative Strama.  "This bill is going to clean our air and save us money."

"The fact that the greater Houston area will not meet federal clean air standards by 2010, calls for the Legislature to take strong, swift and prompt action. We must do all we can to protect the health and safety of our children and the citizens of Houston and this state and the adoption of the Clean Cars Program by the Legislature in this Session will move us in the right direction," said Representative Sylvester Turner of Houston.

The Clean Air Act allows states to choose between complying with federal vehicle emission standards and adopting the Clean Cars Program – implemented by the state of California and currently in place in 11 states including New York, Pennsylvania and Washington.  The requirements include tight limits on tailpipe and evaporative emissions of several air pollutants, including carbon dioxide.  Those states also include a provision that ensures that a certain percentage of cars sold include advanced technology, such as hybrids and fuel-cell vehicles, to further reduce emissions.  New Mexico, North Carolina and Maryland are also considering adoption of the program.

“Air pollution is literally making Texas families sick, yet little has been done in Texas to reduce emissions from its largest source – cars and light trucks,” said Luke Metzger, Director of Environment Texas. “Using readily available technology, automakers could easily put Texas on the road to clean, healthy air.”

The clean air plans for the Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston areas, which are both designated as “non-attainment” with federal air quality standards, have come under fire recently for not requiring enough emissions reductions to meet EPA requirements.  The Clean Cars Program is critical to helping Texas comply with the law and ensure healthy air for its citizens.  According to NESCAUM, the Clean AIR Association of the Northeast States, by the year 2020, the Clean Cars Program in Connecticut, New Jersey and Rhode Island will reduce vehicle emissions of smog-forming pollutants nitrogen oxide and volatile organic compounds by 10.8% and 4.8% respectively. Emissions of global warming pollution will decrease by 18% in 2020.

"Texas is the number one emitter of global warming pollution and has done nothing to reduce its contribution to the problem," said Environmental Defense regional director Jim Marston.  "This bill marks Texas' first step toward taking responsibility for our role in global warming and contributing to the solution, not just the problem."

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a landmark global warming case, Massachusetts v. EPA.  This case will decide whether the Clean Air Act authorizes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate the pollution that causes global warming and whether the states are allowed to adopt the Clean Cars Program.  In contrast to previous EPA legal opinions, the Bush administration has argued that EPA does not have authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate global warming pollution.  This decision will have a direct bearing on whether Texas is able to adopt global warming tailpipe emissions standards for cars and light-trucks. 

Vehicles with reduced global warming emissions will save consumers money at the gas pump.  At current gas prices, buyers of new cars will save $2,520 over ten years and buyers of new light trucks will save $2,706.  A 2002 poll commissioned by Public Citizen found that 79% of Texans support (54% strongly support) requiring all new cars and trucks to reduce emissions.

Groups endorsing SB 124:

Mayor Bill White of Houston, Mayor Mike Moncrief of Ft. Worth, Mayor Laura Miller of Dallas, Environment Texas, Environmental Defense, Public Citizen, Lone Star Chapter Sierra Club, Texas Impact, Austin Physicians for Social Responsibility, Texas Campaign for the Environment, Texas League of Conservation Voters, Galveston Houston Association for Smog Prevention (GHASP), Texas Center for Policy Studies, American Lung Association of the Central States