Item Coversheet


Meeting Date: 10/20/2015
Item Creation Date: 8/5/2015

HHS-Emissions Reduction from Idling Motor Vehicles

Agenda Item#: 13.


ORDINANCE AMENDING CHAPTER 21 OF THE CODE OF ORDINANCES, HOUSTON, TEXAS, relating to Emissions Reduction from Idling Motor Vehicles and related conditions; containing findings and other provisions relating to the foregoing subject; providing for severability; containing a savings clause


The Houston Department of Health and Human Services (HDHHS) requests City Council approval of an ordinance amending Chapter 21 of the Code of Ordinances, Houston, Texas relating to emissions reduction from idling motor vehicles. 


This ordinance builds on the voluntary idling reduction policy for public and private sector fleets operating in the region, which was adopted by the H-GAC Board of Directors in May 2012. 


As per section 30 of the Texas Administrative Code (114, J, 2), a formal idling reduction program involves local government adoption of the TCEQ idling limitations rule and requires the development of an Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the TCEQ, for the purpose of enforcement. The City of Houston will benefit from an enhanced idling reduction program by opting into this proposed ordinance in partnership with TCEQ.


Nitrogen oxides (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and particulate matter (PM) are emitted from vehicle engine exhaust; NOx and VOCs reacts to form ground-level ozone (smog) in the presence of sun light. Ozone has been Houston’s leading air quality concern for many years. Diesel engines emit hazardous air pollutants which have been linked to serious illnesses, including asthma, heart disease, chronic bronchitis, and cancer.  Children, elderly, and those with asthma and other chronic health problems are especially vulnerable to the health dangers of exhaust.


The proposed ordinance makes it unlawful for an owner or operator of a motor vehicle, with gross vehicle weight rating of more than 14,000 pounds, operated within the city to cause or allow the engine of the vehicle to idle for more than five minutes when the vehicle is not in motion, and specifically excludes motor vehicles being used by the United States military, national guard, or reserve forces, as an emergency or law enforcement motor vehicle, motor vehicles being used by the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County for public health and safety purposes, or vehicles being actively loaded or unloaded.


 The ordinance contains several affirmative defenses for which the underlying prohibition does not apply including:


(1)   a vehicle that is equipped with a 2008 or subsequent model year heavy-duty diesel engine or liquefied or compressed natural gas engine that has been certified by the United States Environmental Protection Agency or another state environmental agency to emit no more than 30 grams of nitrogen oxides emissions per hour when idling;

(2)  a motor vehicle forced to remain motionless because of traffic conditions over which the operator has no control;

(3)   the engine of a motor vehicle that is being used to supply heat or air conditioning necessary for passenger comfort and safety in vehicles intended for commercial or public passenger transportation, or passenger transit operations, in which case idling up to a maximum of 15 minutes is allowed;

(4)   the engine of a motor vehicle being used to provide air conditioning or heating necessary for employee health or safety in an armored vehicle while the employee remains inside the vehicle to guard the contents while the vehicle is being loaded or unloaded;

(5)   the engine of a motor vehicle being used to provide air conditioning or heating necessary for employee health or safety while the employee is using the vehicle to perform an essential job function related to roadway construction or maintenance;

(6)   the engine of a motor vehicle providing a power source necessary for mechanical operation, other than propulsion, and/or passenger compartment heating, or air conditioning;

(7)   the engine of a motor vehicle being operated for maintenance or diagnostic purposes;

(8)   the engine of a motor vehicle being operated solely to defrost a windshield;

(9)   the engine of a motor vehicle being used as airport ground  support equipment;

(10)          the owner of a motor vehicle rented or leased to a person that operates the vehicle and is not    

           employed by the owner; or


(11)        the motor vehicle when idling is necessary to power a heater or air conditioner while a driver is using

the vehicle’s sleeper berth for a government-mandated rest period and is not within two miles of a facility offering external heating and air conditioning connections at a time when those connections are available.     


This ordinance was reviewed by the Council Committee on Quality of Life on June 25, 2015.




Contact Information:

Kathy Barton

Telephone: 832-393-5045; Cell: 713-826-5801
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