Savana Nance, a senior air quality planner for the North Central Texas Council of Governments, speaks to Fort Worth residents during a Jan. 18, 2024, open house about the Dallas-Fort Worth air quality improvement plan. Photo by Haley Samsel | Fort Worth Report.


Feb. 16, 2024

With just weeks to finalize Dallas-Fort Worth’s air quality improvement plan, North Central Texas Council of Governments staff have revealed its initial ideas for reducing pollution across the region. 

In 2022, the council was awarded a $1 million Environmental Protection Agency grant to develop a regional climate action plan. Along with Houston, San Antonio, El Paso, Austin and the state of Texas, Dallas-Fort Worth is expected to submit its preliminary, short-term plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by March 1. 

Using funding made available by the Inflation Reduction Act, the EPA will award $4.6 billion to local governments and states to execute those climate action plans. That grant application is due by April 1. 

Members of the Regional Transportation Council, made up of elected officials from across North Texas, approved a rough draft of the climate action plan during their Feb. 8 meeting. 

Although mayors and city managers across the region may hold different opinions of the federal government or about climate change, every official can find a reason to support this plan, said Michael Morris, transportation director of the North Central Texas Council of Governments. 

He referenced the region’s failure to meet federal ozone requirements and the EPA’s recent announcement that Tarrant and Dallas counties will fail to meet new standards for soot pollution if air quality doesn’t improve by 2026

“If you're into climate change, you should be interested,” Morris said. “If you're into attainment of the ozone standard, you should be interested. If you do not want to come into non-attainment of the particulate matter standard, you should be interested. If you're interested in funding transportation and air quality projects, you should be interested.”

Nearly 300 people across North Texas filled out an online survey telling the North Central Texas Council of Governments how the region should approach improving its air quality. Here’s a sampling of the anonymous responses. (By Haley Samsel | Fort Worth Report)

After gauging interest through an online survey and open house meetings, the council’s initial plan focuses heavily on air quality issues related to transportation. North Texas is seeking between $105 and $185 million for transportation programs.

The council’s clean vehicle and equipment program would carry the highest price tag — between $30 and $50 million. Most of the funds would go toward providing incentives to local governments and companies to replace high-pollution diesel vehicles with cleaner options, including electric vehicles and lower-emission engines. Other programs include a pilot program for hydrogen fuel vehicles and incentives to replace gas-fueled lawn equipment with electric options. 

What else is in the North Texas climate action plan? 

If the Environmental Protection Agency approves Dallas-Fort Worth’s grant application, North Texas planners would spend millions to:

  • • Enhance existing transit services by upgrading bus stops, expanding routes and subsidizing passes to increase use of public transit, among other options.
  • • Improve bicycle and pedestrian facilities while incentivizing hubs of development built for people to walk, bike and take transit. 
  • • Upgrade traffic signals, build bus priority lanes and improve signal timing to allow for better traffic flow.
  • • Develop more parks and open spaces, plant more vegetation along streets and preserve existing green space to reduce urban heat island effect. 
  • • Update roadways to minimize idling and construct roadways or underpasses to reduce wait times at railroad crossings.  
  • • Retrofit street lights with LED lighting. 
  • • Incentivize construction companies to use recycled materials and follow best practices for reducing emissions. 

Some programs will be part of the overall climate action plan, but won’t be part of Dallas-Fort Worth’s application for funding from the EPA. 

Those unfunded elements include a program to install additional air quality monitors in North Texas and an initiative to pay law enforcement personnel to enforce laws relating to methane emissions and fraudulent vehicle inspections. As many as 5 million cars in Texas receive fraudulent inspections each year, allowing drivers to skirt safety and emissions requirements, according to a NBC DFW investigation published last year. 

Lori Clark, senior program manager and head of DFW Clean Cities, said the council will aim for  a total award between $100 million and $199 million, the second-highest tier of funding available. 

The federal government anticipates doling out between 30 and 115 awards nationwide by this fall, with somewhere between six and 13 applicants earning the second-highest tier. 

Because the state of Texas will likely apply for the highest funding tier of more than $200 million, the North Texas region shouldn’t appear to compete directly with the state government, Clark said. 

“It may be in our best interest to make sure that they are successful and that we are successful, to the extent that we can influence that,” she said. 

Staff are still finalizing other elements of the climate action plan, including programs related to energy, water and agriculture. Regional Transportation Council members will vote on the specific grant proposals during their March 14 meeting. 

Before then, the North Central Texas Council of Governments will host a Feb. 15 workshop focused on each element of the air quality improvement plan at the University of Texas at Arlington. Attendees will have the chance to share feedback and hear about the state’s EPA grant proposal during the event, which kicks off at 9 a.m. in the E.H. Hereford University Center. 

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