Lowering speed limits. Closing drive-through lanes. Slapping extra fees on owners of smog-belching vehicles.
Those are among the strategies often talked about to reduce air pollution in the Dallas-Fort Worth region.
But all those options combined wouldn't be enough to bring the Metroplex into compliance if the Environmental Protection Agency moves forward with a plan to lower the national ozone standard to 65 parts per billion, a clean-air advocate warned Fort Worth business and political leaders Wednesday.
It would be impossible for the region to comply with that standard, which could be enacted as soon as July, said Jenna Cohen, executive director of the North Texas Clean Air Coalition.
"Just our ground-level ozone, if nobody was in a car, we'd already be at 60 parts per billion," Cohen told members of the 35W Coalition during a quarterly meeting at Texas Motor Speedway. "If the EPA lowered the level to 65, obviously we can't do that. We can't have people not driving their cars. But that is the worst-case scenario. We would not be able to drive and would not get the federal funding for our light rail."
Ground-level ozone is the main ingredient in smog, which can cause serious breathing problems -- especially for seniors, children and people with ailments such as asthma. Ozone is caused by hundreds of thousands of vehicles on the road and other sources such as natural gas wells and industrial plants.
The current EPA standard is 84 parts per billion, and the nine largest counties in Dallas-Fort Worth are on the verge of complying with it after years of violating federal clean-air laws. Today, the area emits just under 86 parts per billion, based on measurements taken during eight-hour periods and averaged over three years.
The EPA's decision could come in July and could result in a loss of billions of dollars in federal funding if the region continues to produce more ozone than allowed.
But the tougher standard could prevent 12,000 premature deaths and 58,000 cases of asthma, the EPA said in a statement e-mailed from its Washington office. Officials at the EPA's regional office in Dallas did not elaborate.
Still, companies could lose tens of millions of dollars, and the region could lose thousands of jobs, said Russell Laughlin, president of the 35W Coalition and senior vice president of Hillwood Properties, which built Alliance Airport and the surrounding development.
Business and political leaders meet quarterly as the 35W Coalition to discuss ways to improve and expand the Interstate 35W corridor in northern Tarrant County and southern Denton County. They were alarmed by Cohen's assessment of the EPA's possible action. They noted that the region has had tremendous success during the past decade in reducing ozone but said the federal agency keeps changing the rules.
"They keep moving the goal posts," said Barney Holland Jr., president of Barney Holland Oil Co. in Fort Worth.
Gordon Dickson, 817-390-7796