Unsplash / Cole Freeman
The Texas Emissions Reduction plan provides grants to swap out older, high-emission engines.
Under a bill Texas Gov. Abbott is expected to sign, more than a third of funds dedicated to a state program aimed at lowering automobile emissions would instead be funneled into building new roads.
Passed during the recently completed legislative session, House Bill 4472 would redirect “not less than 35 percent” from the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan, which offers $270 million spent annually for grants to swap out older, high-emission vehicle engines.
Instead, the money would go to the Texas Department of Transportation for “congestion mitigation" — Texas shorthand for building more roads. Advocates for more highway spending say it reduces congestion. However, studies show that over the longer term, new and expanded roads lead to more traffic and pollution, environmentalists point out.
“Texas has a deadly air pollution problem, so it’s unconscionable that the legislature raided the clean air fund,” Environment Texas Executive Director Luke Metzger said in an emailed statement. “The legislature has largely refused to make industry and vehicle manufacturers reduce their pollution, choosing instead to provide grants to encourage companies to clean the air. But now they’ve gone another step further on the wrong path by defunding the state’s preferred air quality strategy.”
Some 17,000 Texans die annually from air pollution, according to a recent Harvard University study
The recently completed legislative session was marked by a flurry of Republican-backed bills aimed weakening clean energy and protecting the state's powerful fossil fuel lobby, Metzger said.
While some of those measures failed before the end of the session, the Lege managed to pass a bill that stops cities from blocking natural gas connections to new homes. It also approved legislation preventing the state from doing business with entities that "boycott energy companies."
“I’ve never seen so many major efforts to hamstring clean energy as I did this session,” Metzger said. “Fossil fuel proponents falsely blamed wind and solar power for the February blackouts and tried a number of ways to bankrupt renewable energy projects. It’s a significant victory that those bills were defeated and clean energy can continue its enormous rise.”
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