In April 2002, Levi’s cut 3,300 jobs nationwide from its workforce, as it moved production overseas for cheaper foreign labor. Of those 3,300 jobs, 1,919 were in Texas, and one of those was my mom, who had worked at the Brownsville factory for years.
Levi’s was trying to keep up with the oversaturated jeans market, even though it had been a staple, made-in-America brand since 1853. No longer do Levi jeans have “Made in the USA” on them because they moved for cheaper labor—and lower regulations.
I know first hand what increasing regulations do to families, they hurt them, and they do little, if anything to help the environment. Products produced in the United States are produced more responsibly that anywhere on the face of the earth. When the government needlessly increases regulations all it does is shift production to other places. We export jobs and import pollution.
Producing goods in the US would be the responsible thing to do, America is a world leader in clean air and we’re No. 1 when it comes to access to clean drinking water. And, we are the most responsible energy producer in the world. Over the past five decades, we have decreased criteria air pollutants by 78%. Other countries, however, are not as responsible. In Texas, our border and port cities are most affected by foreign air pollution, specifically from Mexico and from foreign ships in our harbors.
The foreign sources of pollution are the reason why the Clean Air Act has a Good Neighbor policy, that states are only responsible for their own pollution and no one else’s. That’s fair; you’re responsible for your own mess. The problem is that the EPA is currently listing four metro areas in Texas–Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and El Paso–as being in “nonattainment” under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for fine particulate matter.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality TCEQ’s assessment of air quality in El Paso found that 60% of the pollutants detected are coming from right across the border in Juárez, Mexico. As a result, the TCEQ is currently petitioning the EPA to redesignate El Paso as in attainment but for emissions from Mexico.
This designation from the EPA significantly increases the cost of doing business and results in manufacturing and refining operations having difficulty getting permits or being forced to adopt expensive emissions control measures. Because of the higher costs, businesses move their production to foreign countries that have less regulations and standards. So not only does the air quality get worse with the punishment, but people lose jobs here to the cheaper alternatives overseas–or just across the border.
Those Levi’s jobs in America were taken to Asia, to the Caribbean, and to Latin America, specifically to Mexico, right across the border. It’s a slap in the face to hardworking American families. And the Biden Administration’s stringent regulations will only make it worse, as those countries mentioned will not choose to change their environmental regulations. After all, why would they?
The fines for being held in non-attainment are astronomical. An article published in February calculated that North Texas industries most responsible for air pollution could owe “$45 million in annual fines to the Environmental Protection Agency starting in 2028.” A study from Texas A&M University Corpus Christi (TAMUCC) found that “Should Corpus Christi fail to meet the EPA ozone standards, the area would face economic losses upwards of $1.7 billion each year.”
Research has found that meeting or exceeding tighter standards will not be possible without severe economic harm, and still the EPA is seeking to tighten the NAQQS for both ozone and particulate matter within the next 18 months, which will hurt every Texan.
That is why House Bill 4932 directs the TCEQ to request the EPA to provide data on foreign sources of pollution in Texas cities within six months. If the EPA does not provide the data in a timely manner, the TCEQ is directed to do its own studies. This information will help ensure areas are not improperly designated as nonattainment because of foreign sources of pollution.
It’s not just about asking the EPA to do what it says it does (subtracting foreign sources of pollution when determining whether a city is in attainment or not), it’s about protecting Texans and their businesses from more regulations and costs that will do nothing to help the environment and everything to move production overseas. It’s about protecting people like my mother, who worked at a proudly American company until it moved overseas because of our country’s own regulations.