Cleaner Environment Means a Brighter Future for All Texans
From the arid plains of the Panhandle to the sunny beaches of the coastal bend to the fertile Rio Grande Valley, every inch of Texas is a unique treasure that must be protected and preserved for future generations.
Texans know that the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land we inhabit are not only critical elements in the quality of life we enjoy – they are a reflection of the majesty of our Creator. And it is incumbent upon us all to be good stewards of those gifts with which we have been entrusted.
Along those lines, Texans have made tremendous strides in the stewardship of our natural resources and the protection of our environment. By reducing emissions, cleaning up old plants and encouraging greater development of clean energy sources, our state continues to be a national leader in the battle against pollution.
In fact, on June 28 the Environmental Protection Agency recognized Texas for meeting federal air pollution standards for fine particles that are directly linked to serious health problems and the top cause of childhood asthma. And though our work continues to clean Texas’ air, the EPA’s new designation signifies that we have taken another important step on the path towards a healthier Texas.
In 2001, I signed into law energy efficiency building standards for residential, commercial and industrial construction. This new law has resulted in substantial reductions of harmful pollutants emitted into Texas’ air.
Texas has taken a “get-tough” stance with older, “grandfathered” power plants – clean up, or shut down. Old polluting plants are reducing nitrogen oxide emissions by at least 50 percent, and sulfur dioxide emissions by 25 percent.
We have also implemented a new pilot program in Harris County to monitor the release of highly reactive volatile organic compounds that rapidly trigger the formation of ozone. The Environmental Monitoring and Response System emphasizes early detection and allows corrective actions to be taken before pollution incidents rise to the level of a public danger.
Two years ago I ordered the Texas Department of Transportation to begin using cleaner burning fuels for its vehicle fleets in our large urban areas, including Dallas, Tyler, Houston, Beaumont, Austin, San Antonio and El Paso. Today, 100 percent of the department’s vehicles in those regions use low-sulfur diesel, which significantly reduces nitrogen oxide emissions.
I was proud not only to sign legislation to clean up old polluting plants, but also to work with legislators to provide an estimated $270 million over two years to implement the “Texas Emissions Reduction Plan,” which creates incentives for local governments to develop and implement new clean air technologies, retrofit diesel engines and purchase energy efficient equipment to achieve compliance with federal clean air standards. Since the program’s inception, the state has distributed more than $40 million in grants and helped reduced noxious emissions by nearly 7,000 tons.
Texas has long been known as the nation’s largest energy producer, but we are equally proud of our distinction as the nation’s leading energy innovator. In 1999 I worked with Republicans and Democrats to pass the most progressive renewable energy requirements in the nation as part of electricity deregulation legislation.
Today, Texas leads the nation in the expansion of wind energy. Two years ago, the Wall Street Journal cited the “new Texas wind rush” that is occurring as a result of the laws we passed mandating that 3 percent of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2009. Since 2001, more than 1,100 wind-generated megawatts of electricity have been added to the Texas power grid – enough energy to power 225,000 homes for a year. And the best part is that wind energy produces less than 1 percent of the carbon dioxide and consumes less than 1 percent of the water of traditional plants.
The state has also encouraged businesses to test and explore the use of single fuel cells that convert clean-burning hydrogen into electricity. Earlier this year, Dow and General Motors launched the first phase of a fuel cell installation project that could have wide ranging benefits for industry, individuals and the environment in the years to come.
I truly believe that Texas is the greatest land on earth, and one of the qualities that makes the Lone Star State the envy of the world is our rich diversity. Not just the diversity of our people and cultures, but our environment, ecosystems and geography as well.
Every Texan has a responsibility to treasure, respect and safeguard our land, air and water for our children and grandchildren to enjoy. Not only do those things literally make up Texas, they are among the many things that make Texas great.
Increasing Energy Efficiency »