History (Page 1 of 2)
In February 2002 the non-profit Texas Environmental Research Consortium (TERC) was commissioned to significantly improve ozone science and air quality modeling in the Houston-Galveston area. In 2003 the Texas Legislature approved funding to continue this research and expand it to include the Dallas-Fort Worth and east Texas areas. In 3 years TERC has spent over $2 million per year developing state of the science air quality research that is routinely used as the basis for air quality legislation. The details about the development of this organization are provided below.
The Greater Houston Area and the Coastal Impact Assistance Program Funding
In 2000, leaders in the greater Houston area identified improving Houston's air quality as a high priority for the future of the region. Area leaders were concerned about the accuracy of air quality models used to demonstrate compliance with federal standards and about the completeness of ozone science needed to guide air quality decisions. After discussions with State and community leaders, the Partnership launched an effort to identify funding resources that could be used to improve air quality modeling and science.
The Coastal Impact Assistance Program (CIAP) was identified as a possible source of support. The purpose of the CIAP is to assist states and local communities in mitigating the impacts of Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas development and production. After discussions with regional and State officials to determine the Partnership's eligibility for funding, Harris County and the State of Texas agreed to include a proposal from the Greater Houston Partnership to utilize CIAP funds for air quality research. Along with proposals from other coastal counties, the General Land Office submitted a unified proposal from the State of Texas that was approved by the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Congress appropriated $150 million under the CIAP to the seven offshore oil and gas producing states of Alabama, Alaska, California, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Under the CIAP, Texas was authorized to receive $26 million. Of this total, Harris County received $1.86 million and the Texas General Land Office received $17.16 million. Harris County Judge Robert Eckels assumed a leadership role in allocation County CIAP funds for air quality research for ozone science and air quality research in the Houston-Galveston region. Then Land Commissioner David Dewhurst also agreed to provide $2.25 million in CIAP funds for this purpose. Thus, a total of $4.11 million was made available to address air quality research issues in the Houston-Galveston region.
The Creation of the Texas Environmental Research Consortium
In February 2002, the Greater Houston Partnership, together with other private and public stakeholders, formed the Texas Environmental Research Consortium (TERC). Under its state entity designation for the Geotechnology Research Institute (GTRI), the Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC) was contracted by Harris County to manage the CIAP funds and associated research. HARC worked with TERC to draft a Strategic Research Plan laying out its priorities for the 2002-2004 biennium. The selection of research projects was guided by this plan, as well as by an external Science Advisory Committee composed of eminent scientists of national and international reputation.
TERC Projects Funded by CIAP
The $4,106,000 CIAP funds were available for air research beginning in February 2002 and were expended by the end of November 2004. During this 34 month period, the TERC supported 34 research projects ranging in size from $6,000 to $500,000. Of these projects, 19 were initiated with Harris County CIAP funds and 15 projects with CIAP funds from the General Land Office. To date 6 of these projects have been directly cited in the Houston-Galveston State Implementation Plan, including two TERC final reports that were included in their entirety. The science developed in these projects was used to direct policy decisions.
TERC research focused primarily on two issues for the Houston region: (1) improvements to emissions inventories and (2) improved monitoring and modeling. The highest research priority in 2002 and 2003 was the need for better and more accurate emissions inventory data and methods. More accurate and complete emissions information is essential to improving the quality and reliability of models. Studies performed in 2000 and 2001 indicated that there were problems with emissions inventories in the Houston region.
Projects were directed at point source emissions inventory improvements, on-road, non-road and area emissions inventory improvements, air quality modeling and monitoring, and research and policy guidance.
New Funding from House Bill 1365
In 2003, the Texas Legislature approved House Bill 1365 to authorize funding for the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP), a cornerstone of the state's clean air effort. The TERP is a multi-faceted program designed to use financial incentives to reduce NOx emissions from high-emitting sources and accelerate scientific inquiry into the causes of air pollution. H.B. 1365 specifies a formula that reserves 9.5 percent of funds for new research and technology; at least 20 percent of that 9.5 percent is to be set aside to support air quality research by a non-profit based in Houston, for the benefit of the Houston-Galveston and Dallas-Ft. Worth ozone non-attainment areas. From that legislation, TERC has received about $5 million to spend on air quality research projects from September 2004 through August 2005.
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