Residents in Keller, Roanoke and northeast Fort Worth could breathe cleaner air in about five years following the development of a new plan to reduce regional emissions.

The North Central Texas Council of Governments submitted its Priority Climate Action Plan to the Environmental Protection Agency on March 1, the first step in an effort to improve air quality throughout North Texas.

The priority plan is one piece of the Dallas-Fort Worth Air Quality Improvement Plan, a collaborative effort between the council’s transportation department, and environment and development department, Senior Air Quality Planner Savana Nance said. The priority plan was created with support and collaboration from more than 30 local governments in the region, including those from Tarrant County and Fort Worth.

Alan Blaylock, Fort Worth District 10 council member, said the plan could spur more discussion in local programs, such as constructing more transportation infrastructure and supporting alternative energy vehicles.

About the plan

Tarrant County Commissioner Gary Fickes, whose precinct includes Keller, Roanoke and northeast Fort Worth, signed a letter of support for the plan last year and said the county has access to more grant funding as part of this initiative.

He noted that poor air quality can cause restrictions to be placed on local construction projects, and it’s in the county’s best interest to try to improve its air quality.

“[Improving air quality] can really benefit us if we do it right,” Fickes said.

The plan covers the next five years and has 42 actionable measures, Nance said.

If all measures from the plan are fully implemented, the region could see a reduction in ground-level ozone, which has been rising in North Texas for the last three years. Ground-level ozone is a harmful air pollutant and the main ingredient of smog, according to the EPA.

The plan addresses emissions and air quality improvement measures across five sectors.
  • Transportation
  • Solid waste management
  • Agriculture, forestry and land use
  • Energy
  • Water, wastewater and watershed
A closer look

The plan’s 42 measures include initiatives related to funding infrastructure for low-emission and electric vehicles, incentivizing commercial and industrial solar projects as well as promoting clean energy finance programs.

Despite improvements made over the past 20-30 years, North Texas is still not meeting the attainment standard for ground-level ozone set by the EPA, Nance said.

The region’s population growth may have contributed to stalls in air quality improvement. Tarrant County’s population increased more than 16% between 2010 and 2019, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

One result of being out of the attainment standard is that while most Texas residents will benefit from House Bill 3297 in 2025, which exempts drivers from getting their vehicle inspected, Tarrant County will continue to require this.
Zooming out

Tarrant County is among 10 counties that do not meet the EPA’s revised annual standard for fine particulate pollution. It was announced Feb. 7 that the standard for this type of pollution was lowered from 12 micrograms per cubic meter to 9 micrograms per cubic meter. Federal officials say this new standard is meant to better protect communities across the country. Tarrant County fell just outside this standard with 9.1 micrograms per cubic meter.

The 10 counties are:
  • Bowie County
  • Cameron County
  • Dallas County
  • El Paso County
  • Harris County
  • Hidalgo County
  • Kleberg County
  • Tarrant County
  • Travis County
  • Webb County
“This final air quality standard will save lives ... especially within America’s most vulnerable and overburdened communities,” EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan said in a news release.

A lawsuit from the Texas Attorney General’s Office challenges these new standards, saying the new standards are not based on sound science and will impose economic harm on Texas.

Why it matters

Ten counties specifically in North Texas, including Tarrant, do not meet federal standards for ground-level ozone concentration, which can impact quality of life and respiratory health for North Texas residents.

To reach attainment, each North Texas monitor has to report less than 75 parts per billion in ozone concentration on a three-year average. The region’s ozone average was reported at 81 parts per billion between 2021-23.

The Federal Clean Air Act can impose penalty fees on major sources of emissions in North Texas. Transportation and energy production make up a significant portion of emissions.

While regional officials develop strategies for better air, local officials are fighting a proposed project they say could reduce air quality in Fort Worth.

In January Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker and Blaylock sent a letter to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality opposing a proposed cement plant in northeast Fort Worth.

“The EPA gives some clear guidance on these chemicals specifically from concrete plants,” Blaylock said. “We know that there’s a causal relationship between these chemicals and these health issues.”
What’s next

With the five-year plan published, the council of governments will make every effort to collaborate with the region in implementing improvement measures, Nance said.

“We’re going to need the buy-in from our local governments, businesses [and] residents to adopt that change,” Nance said.

The council can apply for more grant funding to help implement measures from the plan. The association submitted a $199 million grant request April 1 to the EPA. If awarded, the money would be used to implement 19 measures listed in the plan. These would support clean vehicle initiatives, improve bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, and enhance regional transit services.

The EPA is expected to announce grant recipients in October, Nance said.