In the July issue of the magazine, several writers—myself included—assessed the legacy of Governor Perry. One of the stories reviewed eight critical areas Texas Monthly believes the governor is responsible for, and we gave him a letter grade for each. Some readers thought we were too harsh, and some thought we were too kind. We have also heard from many prominent and respected members of state agencies, including Richard Hyde, the executive director of TCEQ. Our writers gave the governor a D+ for the environment, which Hyde strongly disagrees with. We appreciate his response, and I have posted it in full below:
Dear Texas Monthly,
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) takes issue with a number of inaccuracies in a story entitled, “The Perry Report Card,” in the July Texas Monthly issue, specifically those in “The Environment” segment.
To support the conclusions made in your assessment of Texas’ environmental record under the tenure of Governor Perry, Texas Monthly relied more on conjecture than statistical analysis, which proves Texas has made important and significant progress protecting air and water quality. To provide appropriate context for your readers, who after reading your report card may be under the false impression that Texas is somehow substandard and that the reduction of TCEQ’s budget resulted in a reduction of environmental protection, I offer the following examples of our progress:
Air quality in Texas has significantly improved during a period when the Texas population increased over 25 percent:
- From 2000 to 2013, ozone levels in Texas decreased by 24 percent. This reduction is 12 percent greater than the national average.
- Nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions dropped by nearly 63 percent from large stationary sources from 2000 to 2012.
- Sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions from large stationary sources decreased over 50 percent between 2000 and 2012.
- 91 percent of benzene monitors operating from 2000 through 2012 have shown decreases, resulting in greater health protection against the possibility of blood cell or cancer (i.e. leukemia) effects for Texans across the state.
Texas has adopted a number of initiatives that have improved air quality:
- The Texas Emissions Reduction plan has provided almost $1 billion in grants since 2001 to replace or retrofit older, dirtier diesel engines in the state, with total expected reductions of 177,000 tons of NOx, or the equivalent average daily reduction of over 62 tons of NOx per day in 2014.
- The Texas Drive a Clean Machine program has provided over $174 million in assistance to low-income Texans to retire, replace or repair more than 84,000 old, high emitting cars since 2007.
- Since 2008, the Texas Clean School Bus Program, has retrofitted more than 6,900 buses and reimbursed a total of $22.7 million to 186 school districts/charter schools throughout Texas. The program provides a direct health benefit to school children by reducing particulate matter and other pollutant concentrations in and around the school bus cabin.
- Last year, wind power accounted for almost 10 percent of the electricity consumed in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas region. Wind power has no emissions.
- Texas is also using state-of-the-art technology to find pollution, including the revolutionary thermal imaging camera originally developed for the military that records pollution not visible to the naked eye.
- The TCEQ has effectively improved air quality specific to air toxics through the proactive and innovative Air Pollutant Watch List (APWL) program. Improvements in air quality have allowed 13 of these areas to be successfully removed from the list, and no sites have been added since 2007.
TCEQ aggressively pursues polluters. From 2008 through 2013, the number of administrative orders and civil judicial orders issued by the state has increased 35 percent, and for the past six years over $204 million in administrative and civil penalties have been assessed.
Since 2000, the state’s air monitoring network has expanded by 26 percent.
Since 2008 the agency has provided over 3,000 on-site technical assistance visits to troubled water systems in an attempt to provide safe drinking water to the citizens of this state. Since the drought began in 2011, TCEQ has provided technical assistance to over 100 water systems.
It is my hope that in the future Texas Monthly will exercise greater care in putting these highly important matters into proper context for its readers, and that the editors will use only fact-based analysis to evaluate the state’s environmental record. TCEQ is committed to protecting our environment while fostering an economic climate that promotes job growth and prosperity for our citizens, and the state’s environmental statistics are proof that this philosophy has been successful in Texas.
Richard A. Hyde, P.E., Executive Director
Texas Commission on Environmental Quality