DALLAS— The U.S. Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy continued its analysis of the impact of the Obama administration’s proposed ozone regulations with a snapshot look at the Dallas-Fort Worth region.
The Energy Institute’s Grinding to a Halt series explains how Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to tighten ozone standards could impact critical transportation projects nationwide. In the Dallas-Fort Worth region, state and local governments are working to address stifling traffic congestion through plans that include $40 billion for construction and expansion of freeways to accommodate additional vehicle capacity and population growth. But many projects that are part of those plans—such as the I-820 Loop Southeast Reconstruction project between Fort Worth and Arlington—could be threatened by EPA’s recently tightened standard.
“At 81 parts per billion (ppb), the current level of ozone in the Dallas Fort-Worth region far exceeds the Obama administration’s new one size fits all standard of 70 ppb, which will have major implications for DFW,” said Dan Byers, senior director of Policy at the Energy Institute. “Local officials in the Dallas-Fort Worth region have done an excellent job improving air quality during a time of rapid population and economic growth, but EPA’s new rule moves the goalposts on these successful efforts, and will threaten badly needed transportation projects that address congestion.”
Under the Clean Air Act, the federal government is authorized to withhold transportation funding and halt permitting for highway and transit projects in regions unable to demonstrate compliance with emissions rules. The Dallas-Fort Worth region is among many areas in Texas and across the country expected to have great difficulty complying. Previous Energy Institute reports identified challenges in the Washington, DC, Las Vegas and Denver regions.
Since the 1970s, population in the DFW metropolitan region has grown by 150 percent to over 7 million, with another 3 million more people expected by 2035. While strong population growth and an expanding economy have helped the region prosper, it has also exacerbated ozone compliance challenges.
An example of a project that could be halted as a result of EPA’s new ozone standard is the $838 million I-820 Loop Southeast Reconstruction project. The six different phases of the project include doubling the lane capacity and adding toll and HOV capacity between 2019 and 2028.
“One important component to understand is that non-compliance penalties extend beyond just funding,” said Byers. “EPA can also withhold federal permits that are required in order to complete projects, meaning that even locally funded transportation improvements that need federal approvals are at risk.”
In addition to threats to transportation projects, EPA’s tightened standard will trigger red tape and regulatory restrictions that cripple business investment and job growth, potentially forcing investment capital to locations facing less significant ozone compliance challenges.