During the past decade, North Texas has done a remarkable job adhering to the gradual tightening of ozone standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency. In fact, from 2000 to 2009, ozone levels in Texas have decreased by 27 percent statewide—the largest reduction achieved by any state in the nation. By comparison, the rest of the country averaged only a 12 percent decrease in ozone levels during the same time period.
Thanks to regional leadership and groups like the North Texas Clean Air Coalition, the business community is better informed and has played a significant role in improving our regional air quality. Personally, I believe that air quality is an issue of vital importance to our health, and although we have made tremendous progress, there is certainly more that we can do.
With that said, there has been widespread speculation that the EPA will lower DFW’s ground-level ozone standards from the 2008 standard of 75 parts per billion (ppb) to a more stringent 60-70 ppb, when it issues new guidelines for the region in the coming months. Even our most optimistic regional leaders believe that a standard at this level is unattainable, and will deal the region a significant economic blow.
By the very spot we occupy on the map, with temperatures that reach triple digits for days on end in the summer and very little moving outside air, coupled with our unprecedented growth and increased traffic, many North Texas areas already struggle to reach the current 75 ppb standard. So you can imagine how hard it would be for us, as a region, to reach 60 ppb, collectively. I cannot stress enough the negative impact that this would have on our area’s commercial real estate industry, which is closely tied to economic development and regional growth.
Our thriving DFW area is known for being a good place for businesses to put down roots, grow, and prosper. When businesses are successful, so are their employees and the communities in which they live and work.
With a potential new standard nearly impossible to attain, the DFW area would face an imposition of measures for non-attainment. These would come in the form of sanctions that would cause us to lose federal funding for highways, create more congestion on existing highways, hamper our ability to get from place to place, impact our ability to attract new businesses, and potentially tempt existing businesses to relocate out of our area to cities without roadblocks to their success. Simply put, air quality could be the one issue that puts the brakes on our forward momentum.
It is not that we do not care about air quality. As evidenced above, it’s quite the contrary. We merely want to continue our successful path to improving air quality without incurring catastrophic consequences to our economic health.
So, what do we do? Make some noise. Learn all you can about these very important issues by visiting the North Texas Clean Air Coalition website. Contact your elected officials to voice your concerns about lowering the ground-level ozone standards. Get involved. From the NTCAC’s Business Community Outreach Committee to various programs on commuting, energy efficiency, conservation, and sustainable development, to name a few, there are so many opportunities for businesses and their employees to make a difference.
Getting involved and being good stewards of our resources are the best ways we can take care of business in our own backyard.
Serving as president of Hillwood Properties, Mike Berry leads development efforts the 17,000-acre AllianceTexas development north of Fort Worth.