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Downwinders at Risk
Citizens Win First Public Airing of UNT Study Linking Fracking to DFW Smog This Thursday
Results contradict state officials’ claims that gas industry pollution has no significant impact on the region’s chronic smog
(Arlington) Results of new UNT study linking fracking pollution to DFW’s chronic smog problem will be presented at this Thursday’s regional clean air meeting in Arlington after local citizens groups fought for its inclusion on the agenda.
According to its author, the report directly contradicts the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s (TCEQ) assertion that Barnett Shale mining and production pollution has no significant impact on local ozone levels.
Downwinders at Risk and Rep. Lon Burnam both asked local Council of Government (COG) representatives to include the study after reading about it in the Denton Record Chronicle on March 24th. Initially, they were told there was no room on the agenda because there was already one other academic presentation scheduled. After reminding official that more than one presentation at these meetings was the norm, not the exception, and offering up past agendas as proof, officials relented and found a spot on Thursday’s clean air planning agenda.
This Thursday’s meeting is the third in a series that will lead to the submission of a new anti-smog plan for DFW by next summer. The new anti-smog plan is supposed to be a map for how the region will finally be in compliance with the Clean Air Act after more than two decades violating it. To reach that goal by the 2018 deadline however, ozone levels would have to drop by double digits to historically low levels in a short amount of time. TCEQ is insisting that this can be done without any more additional pollution controls on area cement kilns, power plants or, the pollution from a huge natural gas play. That’s what makes this new UNT study such a challenge to the status quo in Austin.
According to the Denton Record Chronicle article on the study, UNT graduate student Mahdi Ahmadi, supervised by Engineering Associate Dean Dr. Kuruvilla John examined all of the TCEQ’s own daily regional monitoring data for ozone going back to 1997, a total of more than 6.5 million readings.
After adjusting for meteorological conditions and natural versus human-made ozone-forming chemicals, they found that air monitors surrounded by oil and gas activities show worse, more stubborn, long-term trends in ozone reduction than those further away from gas facilities.
Despite optimistic claims by officials, monitoring shows DFW air quality has not improved over the last 5-6 years, and that includes the dismal results of the last TCEQ clean air plan in 2011, which ignored gas pollution in DFW and actually ended with higher smog levels than when it started. Many clean air activists believe that the state is underestimating local gas pollution that’s contributing to smog formation.
“This is a small but important victory for real science in this process, as opposed to the completely politicized approach by TCEQ to prevent the imposition of new controls of any kind,” said Jim Schermbeck, Director of Downwinders at Risk. “Citizens are going to have to be more vigilant in this process if they want cleaner air.”
Thursday’s meeting starts at 10 am and is expected to run until 12 Noon. It’s held in the large conference room at the headquarters of the North Texas Council of Governments, 616 Six Flags Drive in Arlington – right across from the amusement park.