Legislative issues important to Port Arthur and the Gulf Coast
EPA REGULATIONS COULD HINDER LOCAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT.
New Environmental regulations by the EPA reducing the ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) threaten the economic development of Texas. The chamber recently wrote a letter to Mr. Brian Deese, Assistant to the President and Senior Advisor, opposing the reductions of the current ozone levels and requesting that EPA maintain the current ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards (“NAAQS”) of 75 parts per billion (ppb). Since 1980, under the current regulations, air quality has improved as measured ozone levels have declined by at least 33%.
The success is due to substantial investments by American industries and consumers in effective emissions reduction strategies and cleaner vehicles. Despite this improvement the EPA proposes to lower the ozone NAAQS.
While EPA’s scientific justification for lowering the ozone standard raises significant questions, the real impact of the proposed standard on jobs and working people’ incomes is without doubt. A nonattainment or noncompliance regulatory label will create substantial hurdles for economic development and makes the area less attractive for businesses considering relocation. This regulatory burden would be imposed even though EPA acknowledges that up to 66% of the control technology needed to accomplish a proposed lower ozone standard is “unknown”.
Expanding nonattainment designations to rural areas under a lower standard would require regulatory measures that negatively impact the community, particularly in areas with little industry. Such measures include “ozone season” gasoline that increases fuel costs; restrictions on drive thru windows, idling vehicles, lawnmower use, construction equipment use, and even use of barbeque grills. Vehicle emission testing requirements imposes an annual emission inspection fee. Failing vehicles must be repaired or replaced for additional cost and lost work time for vehicle owners. Noncompliance could also impose additional restrictions and potential prohibition on federal highway transportation dollars.
We hope Mr. Deese and others at EPA consider the opinions expressed in our letters and reconsider this regulation.
CHAMBER ACTIVE IN LOCAL TRANSPORTATION ISSUES
The chamber transportation committee chairman, Ron Arceneaux, presented two resolutions from the chamber to the city. The first resolution encourages the city to initiate the process with TxDOT necessary to get the redesign of the cloverleaf located at Highway 69 and Highway 73 on TxDOT agenda. This intersection is the third most dangerous in Jefferson County. The mix of oncoming and exiting traffic plus the 75 MPH speed limit is challenging for the most alert drivers.
The second resolution encourages reinstatement of a business route designation for a portion of Woodworth Blvd., Proctor St. and Houston Ave.
On April 1, 1955, the Texas Highway Commission issued Minute Order 37894 which acknowledged that while the Business Route designation was permitted by TxDOT, the route was not officially designated as a part of the Highway System. The city was responsible for repairs to curbs, gutters and adjustments to manholes, the State was responsible for the repair of existing pavement and resurfacing with asphaltic concrete. The Chamber resolution encourages the city to initiate the process required to partner with TxDOT to once again designate these thoroughfares a Business Route. Should this designation become reality it opens avenues of joint funding between TxDOT, the city and the county. This designation should also bring a bit more traffic south of Highway 73.
CHAMBER ENCOURAGES A YES VOTE ON PROPOSITION 7 (SJR5)
The 84th Texas Legislature passed historic legislation proposing a constitutional amendment on the state ballot affecting the state’s roads, highways, and bridges. This constitutional amendment dedicates certain sales and use tax revenue and motor vehicle sales, use, and rental tax revenue to the state highway fund to provide funding for non-tolled roads and the reduction of certain transportation-related debt. The proposed amendment will aid in maintaining the current infrastructure and will ease congestion by funding new projects for added capacity without any new or increased taxes, fees or debt. A strong transportation system is fundamental to Texas’ quality of life and economic vitality, attracting new businesses and generating new jobs. If passed this amendment would result in an estimated $3 billion per year for the state highway fund.
Three quarters of the year are gone and holiday decorations are up but it is not too late to become part of the organization that has been working to build Port Arthur since 1899. Call us today and take your place on the team.