Thursday, July 14, 2011

Deep in the smoggy heart of Texas

From our friends at Downwinders as Risk:

For Immediate Release, July 14th 8am
For More Information: Jim Schermbeck - 806-787-6567 -

Before It's Even Finalized,
Group Says New State Smog Plan Has Failed

This summer's bad ozone numbers make it impossible
to meet 1997 standard by next year says Downwinders at Risk;
Group blames lack of state action on gas industry pollution

Citizens' Rick Perry Bean Cook-Off begins at 6:00 pm
TCEQ's Hearing on DFW Smog Plan starts at 6:30
Arlington City Hall, 101 W. Abram

(Arlington)---Even as state officials prepare to submit their newest DFW air plan to the public and EPA for approval, a local clean air group says high ozone levels this month have already made it a failure.

"The state is going through the motions, but it's clear the assumptions it was depending on aren't playing out. Our ozone numbers are already worse than last year's," said Jim Schermbeck, Director of DFW clean air group Downwinders at Risk.

Not succeeding would mean a second failure by the state in six years to reach a 1997 federal ozone standard that the Bush Administration determined was not protecting human health. A 2006 DFW plan failed in 2009, necessitating the current proposed plan, which is the subject of a public hearing on Arlington tonight.

In order for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to claim victory, no DFW ozone monitor can have a three-year running average any higher than 84 parts per billion (ppb). As of this month, that average would be 88.6.

"Right now, it would require a 2012 ozone level of no more than 79 ppb to get an 84 ppb average. Since monitoring began in the mid-1990's DFW has never had a summer ozone number that low," said Schermbeck.

Moreover, Schermbeck noted that since the TCEQ proposal is basically to watch as residents trade in their older, more polluting cars for newer, less polluting ones, there's no new control measures to significantly decrease ozone-forming emissions in the next year.

"Without new initiatives, there's little hope that DFW can make it to where it needs to be by the time it needs to be there."

Meanwhile, on Tuesday the EPA sent its latest proposal to reduce the federal ozone standard to between 60 and 70 ppb to the Office of Management and Budget, insuring that an announcement will be made in 30 days. That will trigger a new effort that will demand more direct pollution controls that are missing in the proposed TCEQ plan for the old standard.

Schermbeck said the DFW area had hit a wall in making air quality progress.

"We've been in a holding pattern for about five years now - since the last air plan brought down our ozone levels with a variety of pollution control measures. But our ozone levels now are still what they were in 2007. They're not going down. In fact, this year's numbers are going up."

Schermbeck said rising volumes of gas pollution is one of the reasons.

According to TCEQ's own estimates, by next year there will be more tons of smog-forming Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) produced by the gas industry sources than by all the vehicles in North Texas.

To spotlight this development, and the state's unwillingness to control the growth of this kind of pollution, Schermbeck's group and others are sponsoring a tougue-in-cheek "Rick Perry Bean Cook-Off" immediately prior to the start of tonight's public hearing.

During the Cook-Off, servers in Rick Perry masks will be dishing out "dry" beans and "wet" beans guaranteed to give their consumers a bad case of "Perry gas pollution." They'll be "Gas-B-Gone" relief in the form of a list of pollution control measures that sponsors say could get rid of 90% of gas industry air pollution in DFW while also producing more profits for gas operators.

Last summer, over 200 people attended a similar hearing and all but one speaker voiced frustration over TCEQ's unwillingness to take on industrial pollution affecting the DFW airshed.

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