"This is just another step in a dance we've been dancing for decades and frankly, we've gotten to the point where we have to take a serious look at what we're doing here. We're not actually working as hard as we can and efficiently as we can to try and get clean air. We're just doing a bureaucratic process."
Houston now joins Los Angeles as the only two big cities that have severe smog problems according to the EPA. Shelly Whitworth is the Houston-Galveston Area Council's Air Quality Program Manager. She says the EPA extension makes sense. "I think for us to have attained by 2009 would have been virtually impossible. However, having said that, I think everyone has agreed that they would like not to wait until 2019 to attain. They would like to obtain this good air quality in this region as soon as possible."
Whitworth says even though 2019 seems like a long way away, that's not really the case when it comes to putting together a new, updated clean air plan. "Really, we don't have a lot of time to get this new standard in place. Even though the attainment date is 2019, you have to start showing clean data three years before and you have to have a clean season, so we're really looking at that 2015, 2016 time frame to have all these control strategies in place."
It's likely the EPA will re-evaluate the current clean-air standard and possibly have an even newer one in place in just a few years.
The EPA this week re-classified Houston's smog problem as severe and gave the 8-county region the extra time to meet the federal clean-air guidelines. Matthew Tejada is the executive director of th Galveston-Houston Association for Smog Prevention.