Using local social justice history lessons and expertise, the College for Constructive Hell-Raising aims for students to “think more like organizers”

January 17- May 23rd 

(Dallas)–Saying they want to encourage local residents to organize more effectively around the issues that concern them, clean air group Downwinders at Risk announced today it’s establishing a new “school” for doing just that: “The College of Constructive Hell-Raising.“

Meeting two Tuesday evenings a month from January to May next year, the College will expose its students to time-tested community organizing principles and use past DFW social justice campaigns to make points about strategy and tactics. Its curriculum is designed to assist any kind of organizing effort, not just the environmental fights Downwinders is known for winning.

Downwinders Director Jim Schermbeck said this kind of training is usually only offered at out-of-state facilities like the Midwest Academy in Chicago, or the Highlander Institute in Tennessee, and then only to professional staffers in intense one to two-week sessions costing thousands of dollars. Downwinders is charging just $125 and formatting the information into a more citizen-friendly evening continuing-ed type of class.

Supplementing eight out of the ten lesson plans are “guest lecturers” from past social justice campaigns who’ll talk about their own experiences in trying to change things for the better in DFW, including veteran civil rights organizers Peter Johnson and Robert Medrano, original Bois D’arc Patriot John Fullinwider, former State Representative Lon Burnam, West Dallas environmental leader Luis Sepulveda, long-time AIDS Services of Dallas Director Don Maison, Police brutality organizer Changa Masomakali, anti-nuclear organizer Mavis Belisle, and Zac Trahan, former Dallas Program Director of the Texas Campaign for the Environment.

By using this Who’s Who of change-makers, we’re not only giving students useful case studies in organizing, we’re  also passing along important local history lessons,” said Schermbeck. “Many of the controversies facing DFW today are rooted in the past struggles our guests will be talking about.”

He said Downwinders hopes graduates of the College will be able to use what they learn to successfully fight for a grassroots agenda in DFW, no matter the particular issue. “We believe the goal of building a more sustainable world is served through the strengthening of all of our allies. Environmentalism doesn’t exist in a vacuum.”

Only 15 students will be accepted in this first semester. More information and applications are available online at the Downwinders at Risk website:


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      "SMOG IN DFW"





6-8 PM


2800 ROUTH STREET #170 DALLAS  (map)













Despite five clean air plans written by the state and EPA, DFW has been in continuous violation of the Clean Air Act for smog since 1991.

The current state clean air plan for DFW has one more summer to "attain" the federal ozone standard of 75 parts per billion. We're at a regional average of 80 ppb, down exactly 1 ppb from 2015 levels. The region has never had a one-year 5 ppb drop in smog before.

If the state plan does fail next year, what happens? 

Meanwhile, advancements in technology are making it possible for citizens to use increasingly sophisticated tools previously available only to government or industry in their fights for cleaner air.

How much of government's air quality watchdog role can now be assumed by citizens, and should be? 


Pics from Our “Meet the Drones” Mixer

by jim on October 17, 2016

drone-mixer-12Here's the link to some pictures of our October 6th "Meet the Drones" Mixer featuring the squadron from University of Texas at Dallas. 

Thanks to TCU's Dr. Mike Slattery for hosting the public debut of our North Texas CLEAN Air Force – an exciting new effort combining citizen know-how with academic expertise to better help us identify DFW air pollution problems.  Representatives from TCU, UTA, UTD, UNT, UNTHSC were on site. Thanks as well to all the supporters and curiosity-seekers who showed up to see the show. 

This was the first of what we hope will be a series of such events around North Texas to show off the capacity and potential of this new tool for citizens. Stay tuned for news on when we'll be coming to a campus near you.


honeycutt-w-bkgroundYou've probably have never heard of the EPA's Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee but if you live in DFW or another "non-attainment" area for smog, you are governed by its judgment about what does, or does not, constitute a "safe" level of exposure to smog. 

The mission of the Committee is to periodically review the latest scientific literature on the subject of smog pollution and determine if the federal standard needs to be adjusted accordingly. Its members, all experts in their fields, serve as volunteers to advise the EPA. Although its recommendations are not automatically enforced, they carry a lot of weight and often determine when and by how much the standard will be changed. 

Since 1991, based on wave after wave of studies on air pollution, the standard has been repeatedly revised downward, from a one-hour exposure level of 120 parts per billion to an eight-hour exposure level of 75 ppb currently, soon to come down to 70 ppb.

The original recommendation of the Committee this time around was for the standard to be lowered to between 65 and 70 ppb. The Obama Administration, after ungracefully backing-out of such a change prior to the 2012 election leading to the departure of then EPA chief Lisa Jackson, agreed to a 70 ppb standard last year. It's expected to be enforced at the beginning of the next decade.

Because of the volunteer nature of the job, there's always turnover on the Scientific Committee. This past year a new slot opened up and the EPA was taking nominations to fill it.  Seeing an opportunity to put one of their own on the body, the Oil and Gas industry, as well as many others, supported none other than Texas Committee on Environmental Quality staff toxicologist Michael Honeycutt for the job. 

This is akin to nominating Donald Trump to be a Sorority Mom. 

Honeycutt has turned his office, never held by anyone particularly citizen-friendly before, into a shameless base camp for every industry fighting new environmental regulations of any kind. He is the go-to contrarian when independent scientists conclude new, lower levels of exposure to a poison are justified, whether it's Benzene, Arsenic or smog. Honeycutt never met a toxin he didn't want to shill for.

In the case of smog, Honeycutt hired Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Gradient Inc. at the tune of about $1 million in taxpayer money, to help him sell the idea that smog isn't that bad for you and a new lower standard for exposure was completely and utterly unnecessary to protect human health. Gradient has a impeccable reputation – for being Big Tobacco's bought and paid researchers whenever it needed somebody in a white coat to talk about how exaggerated the risks of smoking were. 

Teaming-up, industry, Gradient and Honeycutt hit the road as EPA was mulling over a new ozone standard, spreading the gospel of smog denial. They mounted a campaign to block the EPA from implementing the 70ppb standard. They failed. But they weren't through. 

For sheer gall, their next move can't be beat. When a slot on the smog standard-deciding Scientific Advisory Committee opened up, industry decided to nominate Honeycutt to the job. Who better to decide the level of harm the public should be exposed to than the guy who says there's nothing to worry about? 

Honeycutt had the support of industry and its supporters in Congress. Oklahoma Senator Jim "Snowball" Inhofe is a big fan. How could he not get the job? 

Alas, it might come as a shock, but the Obama EPA did not appoint Honeycutt to the position. 

Instead, it decided to pick Donna Kenski, the data analysis director for the Lake Michigan Air Directors Consortium. for the open seat.

As you can imagine, the air is heavy with disappointment on Congress Ave in Austin and K Street in DC. Here's the reaction of one of industry's paid spokesmen, who coincidentally happens to be that same US Senator who backed him,   

"It's disappointing EPA overlooked so many well-qualified candidates who would have brought much needed geographic diversity, fresh perspectives, and balance to the powerful CASAC panel," Sen. Jim Inhofe told ME in a statement. "The Obama-EPA has once again ignored established policies and public input on candidates and instead has hand-picked an ally to fill one of its last advisory appointments of this administration." 

This is the kind of small, but important battle that takes place all the time in government. When you think about voting for president, the EPA's Scientific Advisory Committee is probably not the first thing you consider. But it makes a huge difference whether such a committee is headed up by real scientists, or junk scientists like Michael Honeycutt. Smog standards can save thousands of lives across the country every year. Those lives depend on the EPA using the best science, not the best science money can buy. 


meet-the-drones-smallAttention DFW Citizen Scientists and Interested Folk!!


Check out UTD's fleet of drones used for air monitoring and talk to the scientists who use them.

See the "real time results" "dashboard" UNT is developing to pair with these drones.

Meet our academic partners in establishing a grassroots air network better than anything government is doing.

$35 gets you all this, a drink and some food.

Spend the evening getting all cyberized.







Only THREE Hours Left to Contribute

This "Giving Day," Downwinders is trying to raise $6500 to fund a full 72 hours of airborne investigation by our pollution-sniffing drones.

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From 6 am to 12 Midnight tonight, contributions of just $25 or more to Downwinders can get matched or expanded by the Communities Foundation of Texas.



We're talking a lot about our drone project today because, let's face it, drones are tech-sexy!

But drone monitoring is just one part of a plan to replace the State of Texas as a source of air quality information for DFW residents.

Just like everything else in the digital world, the cost of reliable air pollution electronic sensors is coming down. What used to cost millions of dollars now costs hundreds of thousands, and tomorrow might cost just thousands.

It's the same reason we were able to clone the state's air computer model  and use it in ways the state didn't want it used. That would have been impossible a decade ago. But the price of supercomputing is going down and it allowed us to usurp a function for citizens that was previously only accessible to state engineers. 

Now we want to repeat that success.

The state only operates a total of 20 air monitors in North Texas.

Five are boundary monitors – far outside the central cities. That leaves just 15 monitors for 7 million people inside the metro area. 

Working with area universities, Downwinders wants to deploy a grassroots citizen-based monitor network that would connect hundreds of monitors across the DFW area.

This network would not only warn you about Smog, but Particulate Matter and Air Toxics as well – something the state network isn't built to do. 

The goal is nothing less than to usurp the state's job once again – and once again do it better. 

It's important to us not only to fight the Good Fights that need fighting, but to change the system itself as we win those fights. 

If you like this strategy, please contribute today to make sure we're around to implement it. 

Thank you for your consideration.




Keep 'Em Flying

So far, contributions from our supporters have got our drone out of the hanger and into the air.

Now we need to get it above cement kiln and coal plant smokestacks we want to monitor. Help us gain monetary altitude. 

This "Giving Day," Downwinders is trying to raise $6500 to fund a full 72 hours of airborne investigation by our pollution-sniffing drones.

donate-button copy

From 6 am to 12 Midnight tonight, contributions of just $25 or more to Downwinders can get matched or expanded by the Communities Foundation of Texas.

Not only does your donation go further today, it also helps us fund new projects like our North Texas CLEAN Air Force.

But citizen-owned drones are only one part of a larger, more ambitious air quality monitoring project now taking shape in DFW. 

Along with our academic partners in a new Air Research Consortium, we want to establish a region wide network of hundreds of stationary and mobile e-sensors that can give you better and more nuanced air quality information.

We want to take over the State's job – which it isn't doing very well anyway. The first step for us is getting our drones up in the air and doing research. 

One hour of drone flight time costs $90. A full 72 hours in the air costs about $6500. That's our goal today. 


And then there's this…..

We just won a fight it took 15 years to win

scr-unit-picAfter 15 years of hard work we finally saw the installation of a state-of-the-art air pollution control system in one of thethree Midlothian cement plants this month.


It could reduce smog pollution from the plant's kiln by 80-90%. 


Only your support enabled us to stick around and follow-though on this goal.



giving-day-logo-rdCLICK HERE TO CONTRIBUTE 





This "Giving Day" Downwinders is trying

to raise $6500 to fund a full 72 hours

of airborne investigation by our

pollution-sniffing drone

donate-button copy

From 6 am to 12 Midnight tonight, contributions of just $25 or more to Downwinders can get matched or expanded by the Communities Foundation of Texas.

Not only does your donation go further today, it also helps us fund new projects like our North Texas CLEAN Air Force.

We're adding an exiting new high-tech tool to our fight for cleaner air. One that can replace, not just fight, the status quo. 

Air-monitoring drones can reveal pollution hot spots stationary monitors can't. They can respond to accidents and tell you whether that plume of smoke really is "harmless."  

One hour of drone flight time costs $90. A full 72 hours in the air costs about $6500. That's our goal today. 

Your lungs are worth it.

We're the only clean air group in DFW with full-time staff.

All our board members live here. 

We depend on DFW residents like you for our continued successes, like….

Stopping the burning of hazardous waste in local cement plants 

Shutting down the outlaw Exide lead smelter in Frisco 

Writing the most protective gas drilling ordinance in Texas

And now – fighting for a new federal anti-smog plan for DFW to replace the state's do-nothing approach




Thanks for your Consideration 





SmallVictoriesHolcim is the first cement plant in the nation to voluntarily install an industrial catalytic converter called SCR on its smokestack, significantly cutting smog-forming air pollution in DFW. 

But despite operating only 26 miles from EPA headquarters, the Agency and State of Texas still claim the technology isn't "feasible"  


Downwinders is proud to announce Midlothian's Holcim cement plant is the first in the nation to voluntarily install pollution control equipment significantly cutting smog-forming air pollution, along with other dangerous emissions.  

"Not many people may notice, but Friday is a big day for air breathers in DFW, as well as for everyone in the country who lives downwind of a cement plant," said Tamera Bounds, Chair of Downwinders at Risk, the clean air group that's been relentless in its pursuit of the technology for North Texas since 2001.  

Friday marks the official deadline for Holcim's Midlothian cement plant to have its Selective Catalytic Reduction, or SCR system, up and running on one of its two giant kilns in order to be compliant with EPA emissions limits.  

Although almost a dozen cement plants in Europe have installed the technology over the last twenty years and it's widespread in the American coal industry, Holcim is so far the only cement plant in the U.S. to install SCR on one of its kilns without a government mandate.  

A pilot test using SCR at Midwest cement plant was required by a Department of Justice enforcement action in 2010. Results show smog-forming pollution was cut by at least 80% – roughly twice as much as pollution controls now in use in the US, including Midlothian. In Europe, SCR has a track record of removing 80-90% or more of the smog-forming pollution that has kept DFW in violation of the Clean Air Act since 1991. It also cuts the emissions of air toxics, particulate matter, and dioxins by double-digits.  


With three cement plants and four kilns, Midlothian hosts the largest concentration of cement manufacturing in the US, and the largest "stationary" sources of air pollution in DFW. Since the late 1980's, the city has become a national battleground over cement plant pollution. First, over the use of hazardous waste as "fuel" for the local kilns, then over the closing of dirtier, obsolete "wet" kilns contributing to smog and climate change, and now over how fast new kilns can be updated to reflect 21st technology.   

Bounds and others say the installation of SCR on all four kilns in Midlothian would mean a huge benefit to public health for residents in Tarrant County, where the predominant winds push the plumes from the kilns. A 2009 Cook Children's Hospital study showed childhood asthma levels highest directly downwind of the cement kilns.  

The demand for the technology is a central part of the group's push to replace the current State-sponsored anti-smog plan with a more effective, and protective, one from EPA. So far, Dallas County, the City of Dallas, two Congressional Representatives and a State Legislator agree with them. But incredibly, the Agency maintains the SCR technology Holcim has freely invested in to reduce pollution and is already operating less than 30 miles from its regional headquarters is not "technically feasible."  

Downwinders and other groups in the DFW Clean Air Network regional alliance are challenging EPA's refusal to recognize a game-changing pollution control technology that could help DFW finally put its smog problems behind it a well as offering similar help to other parts of the country downwind of cement plants.  

"It's rare these days to find the EPA embracing Texas' approach to ignoring advances in environmental science, but that's exactly what happening," said Bounds.  "Both State and EPA officials are acting like 3rd Graders – closing their eyes and humming loudly, pretending this time-tested technology isn't operating right in front of them. But it does, and it's here to stay."  

Bounds wants the EPA to take note of the cuts in pollution triggered by Holcim's operation of its SCR system and then hold ALL the Midlothian plants to the same modern standard. "You have a piece of equipment that is setting a higher bar for pollution control. Every cement kiln in DFW should have to meet that higher bar now. No other anti-pollution strategy makes sense."  

It's been a long and circuitous route to getting SCR installed in a Midlothian cement kiln. Along the way, the region's clean air activists moved the entire nation closer to widespread use of this control technology.  

North Texans first heard about the use of SCR in the cement industry through a citizens group fighting a proposed new cement plant in New York state in 2001.They'd commissioned a study from a NYC engineering firm identifying European cement plants that had already successfully installed the technology.  

Downwinders tried and failed to include SCR in the anti-smog plan in 2003. It then used a 2005 settlement agreement with the State over the failure of that plan to get the then Rick Perry-controlled Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to perform an independent assessment of the technology. That landmark study produced results that are still reverberating today. In it, five independent experts chosen by Downwinders, the cement industry, and the State declared SCR to be ready for prime time.  

"SCR is a commercially available technology. It offers the possibility of significant NOx reduction at the plants in Ellis County.  As an 'add on' technology, which can achieve 90% or greater NOx reduction, with demonstrated performance at hundreds of coal fired power plants, SCR is a viable technology that is available for both dry and wet kilns."  

That conclusion, from cement industry experts, in a TCEQ study, is now a decade old.  

At the same time they were working to bring SCR to Midlothian, Downwinders also led the fight for new EPA emission limits on cement kilns that burn hazardous waste. A 2009 national hearing at DFW Airport attracted over 200 people. Those emission limits clamped down on air toxics. Holcim couldn't meet them without adding controls. They choose an SCR unit on one kiln and a thermal oxidizer (re: flame) on the other to try and stay in compliance. Even though Holcim installed SCR to address air toxics, or Volatile Organic Compounds and not smog pollution, the effect on emissions will be the same.  

Meanwhile, the 2006 TCEQ study and subsequent push by Downwinders for SCR in Midlothian helped persuade the EPA to require the pilot test in 2010.  That test, as well as Holcim's experience in Europe, set the stage for SCR's official debut on the Texas prairie on Friday.   

"It's been a long fight, but change is hard," said Bounds, "and it doesn't happen in a straight line."

Help Us Celebrate This Victory That Was 15 Years in the Making

Please consider contributing $25 or more on "GIVING DAY" NEXT THURSDAY to keep us on the front lines of change another 15 years.

Giving Day is an all day online giving event sponsored by the Communities Foundation of Texas.

Downwinders will have our own online Giving Day page where you can click and give from 6 am through 12 Midnight next Thursday.

Every contribution of $25 or more is matched or extended by the Foundation.  

This year, we need your support to keep our full-time staff in the field, as well as fund our 2nd annual Root and Branch Revue for activists, and assemble our North Texas Clean Air Forceof air-monitoring drones. 

Oh yeah, we're also opening a school for organizers in January. 

We're based in DFW. All our board members are from DFW. Our priority is DFW air. Your contribution stays in North Texas to fund the fight for clean air in North Texas. 

We know you're being assaulted by Giving Day appeals from all the local non-profits, and there are lots and lots of good causes. We only request that you ask yourself how many other local groups can repeatedly pull off meaningful victories with so few resources? 

We were able to bring SCR to Midlothian with your help. We need your help again next Thursday. We think we've earned it. 



“Meet the Drones” Mixer Oct 6th

by jim on September 13, 2016


Thursday, October 6th 

5:00 to 6:30 pm

TCU Alumni Center

2820 Stadium Dr

Fort Worth

Have a bite to eat, a drink, and stroll amongst the drones we're assembling for our North Texas Clean Air Force.

Representatives from the University of Texas at Dallas will be displaying their fleet of fixed-wing and rotor copter drones. TCU, UTA, UNT and the UNT Health Science Center have all been invited to set up displays and show-off their high-tech capabilities as well. 

Chat with our academic parterns in grassroots air monitoring and watch as a certified drone pilot demonstrates the new technology we're using to fight for cleaner air.

This should be of interest to anyone looking for Do-It-Yourself ways to monitor the air we breathe as well as Downwinders supporters in general. We're adding a high-tech tool to our tool box and we want you to see how we're spending your contributions. Support a citizens' North Texas Clean Air Force.



Kids-with-Thinking-Caps 2


Help Us Start to Organize the 2017 Root and Branch Revue

Activist Conference 

Saturday, September 10th


Common Desk Co-Working Space 

633 West Davis in North Oak Cliff

If you could plan a conference for you and your peers to help train and motivate you as environmental activists in Texas, what speakers, events, forums, exhibits, panels, music, and/or art would you choose? 

Last year Downwinders brought Love Canal's own Lois Gibbs to DFW to be our featured guest at the very first Root and Branch Revue – a conference aimed specifically at training and educating DFW and Texas environmental activists. We also teamed up with the Young Turks at Bar Politcs to present the first evening of "environmental comedy" in DFW history, and hosted a panel on what fracking activists can do in the wake of new state restrictions on municipalities. 

Because of the elections, Downwinders has scheduled the next the next Root and Branch Revue for January 25-28, 2017. This time we're specifically focusing on "Citizen Science," through the lens of Environmental Justice. 

We're looking for DFW activists who want to help shape the content and format of this one-of-a-kind event, so we're opening up the planning process to everyone who's interested. This is our first public planning meeting. 

Bring your thinking caps and dreams. We need ideas for workshops, speakers, etc. for this "SXSW for activists." If you ever attendded a conference and wondered how you'd run things differently, now's your chance to put theory into practice. 


Dakota pipeline protest 2

11 AM 



8111 WESTCHESTER in DALLAS – by the N. Dallas Tollroad (map)

The American Indian Movement of Central Texas is sponsoring a protest in support of the increasingly high profile anti- pipeline protest in the Dakota Indian Country in Dallas this Friday. The event is co-sponsored by a host of local and state environmental groups, including Downwinders at Risk. 

If built, the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL), would pass under the Missouri River…twice. The pipeline threatens to contaminate the drinking water, crops and burial grounds of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. 

Federal regulatory agencies quietly approved DAPL, which will transport Bakkan Shale crude oil from North Dakota through South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois.

The Dallas connection? Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners is the pipeline's developer. 

You may already know Energy Transfer's CEO, Kelcy Warren. He bought the naming rights to the Dallas Deck park over Woodall Rogers that bears his son's name and is a big Jackson Browne fan. Show up and protest Before The Deluge. 



Chris Turner 2State Representative Chris Turner, whose District 101 spans west Grand Prairie and east Arlington between Dallas and Fort Worth became the first state elected official to urge EPA to reject the current state anti-smog plan for DFW and substitute one of its own. 

In a letter to EPA Chief Gina McCarthy, Turner used language echoing the sentiments of US Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson and Congressman Marc Veasey. 

"While I hope that the TCEQ will take the public comments it received by EPA, the Texas Medical Association, and others into consideration and require additional emissions controls in the final SIP revision it submits to EPA, I ask you to consider rejecting the state's plan use of a Federal Implementation Plan if your agency decides that the final SIP revision is insufficient and the state will not negotiate in good faith."

The entire letter can be read here.

Besides Johnson and Veasey's letters, Dallas County and the City of Dallas have voted in favor of resolutions condemning the currently proposed plan has being inadequate. More cities and counties are expected to pass similar resolutions as elected bodies come back from summer breaks. 

Members of the DFW Clean Air Network (DFW CAN) – Downwinders at Risk, the Sierra Club, Beyond Coal, the Texas Campaign for the Environment, Mansfield Gas Well Awareness and Livable Arlington – are also out and about obtaining letters like Turner's from other state and federal elected officials. 

Turner's district is directly downwind of the Midlothian cement plants and includes numerous natural gas wells and facilities. Gas sources are now the fourth largest contributor to DFW smog. 

According to EPA, the state plan arrived at the EPA's doorstep August 8th, but it's already DOA.

Although ozone season is far from over and it's been a relatively mild "season" so far, we know in its second full year out of the three years allotted for success, the state air plan will, at best, have brought down ozone levels by 1 ppb from 2015 levels, to 80 ppb. We're supposed to be at 75. 

The parrot is dead. We're just waiting for the state to admit it – or the EPA to shut the farce down. 

Meanwhile, the more political support on the ground in DFW for an EPA alternative that might actually reduce emissions from major sources in North Texas like gas, cement kilns, and coal plants, the more likely it is for the Agency to accept the challenge, and endure all the pushback from Austin it'll get if it decides to take over the job.

If you're interested in trying to get your city, county, or state or federal elected officials to join the band wagon and reject the state plan, write or call us and we'll work with you in getting something accomplished that can add to the momentum. 


light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel-train 2There's no better symbol of the anachronism that is Texas state government than the ineptly named Railroad Commission, or RRC. It has nothing to do with choo-choos, and everything to do with the State's oil and gas legacy. 

Or is it misnamed? Its innocuous title keeps it off a lot of citizens' radar screens while going about its business of shoving anyone or anything not in the oil and gas business around to make it more comfortable. Our drilling contaminating your water? You can to get the bottled stuff delivered. Our waste disposal causing earthquakes? You'll get used to it. Our air pollution causing your child's nosebleed? What's a couple of ER visits compared to our nation's energy security? Railroad? Yes – it's right there in our name. 

Instead of being appointed by the Governor, the three RRC commissioners are elected statewide…with the help of contributions from the oil and gas industry. This isn't the fox guarding the hen house. There are no hens left. 

This is why any review of the Commission, even one by the equally inept State Legislature, is a chance to get the word out about how god-awful the RRC is and what needs to be done to overhaul it. Beginning this month, that's what's happening, because 2017 is the year the Railroad Commission is getting "sunsetted" by the state.

Sunset laws demand that every state agency must come before the legislature and justify itself anew about every 12 years. Usually pro forma exercises, occasionally a terrible agency is allowed to die. Most have their missions amended or rules tweaked, or their names changed. this is how the "Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission," or, "TNRCC/"TRAINWRECK," became the "Texas Commission on Environmental Quality/"TCEK." After being postponed last session, it's the Railroad Commission's turn now. 

Tomorrow night's faux-official Town Hall meeting on the Railroad Commission being sponsored by Earthworks, Public Citizen and the Sierra Club is a kind of milk run for the more important job of testifying in front of state legislators in Austin later in the month, on the 22nd. Attend to find out how you can use this process to gain more publicity for its terrible record, and perhaps be able to actaully tweak the system to be more citizen-friendly.

Texas Railroad Commission Town Hall

Tuesday, August 2

Grapevine Convention Center

1209 Main St.

(located off 114 and Main St. exit)

Registration:  6:30 pm 

Program: 7:00 pm


Texas Railroad Commission Public Testimony at the Capitol

Monday, August 22

For more information on the whole process, talk to Rita Beving with Public Citizen and the Sierra Club,   214.557.2271



Bob  2It's only July, but midway through its second year, we already know the state's air "plan" for DFW has once again failed to obtain compliance with the current 75 parts per billion ozone standard.

Last year the regional peak went from 80 to 81 ppb based on a rolling three-year average of readings from the Denton monitor. Even though we've only had one or two awful ozone weeks this year so far, those were enough to establish a 2016 Denton monitor average of 80 ppb going into what are tradtionally the smoggier months of August and September. So two years in, the state's plan can do no better than get us back to where we started in 2014 – and might do considerably worse. 

Officially, the state's only hope for last-minute success is a drastic drop in smog at the Denton monitor next year in order to swing the three-year running average. Those hopes are hanging by a tailpipe with the scheduled introduction by the federal governement next summer of a new, lower-sulfur gasoline mixture for all U.S. cars and trucks. Austin's "plan," such as it is, is to ride the coattails of that change in gasoline formula in hopes its widespread use will significantly lower smog numbers thoughout DFW. 

EPA agrees with Texas that they'll be a decline in vehicle-generated smog due to the new gas mix. However, it disagrees that it alone will be able to bring DFW into compliance with the Clean Air Act by the end of ozone season in 2017. At this point, the Denton monitor would have to have a 2017 fourth-highest reading of 64 ppb or lower to come in at a running average of 75 ppb. Not impossible, but it requires an unprecedented 10-11 ppb annual drop from the current average, much less the higher one that August or September might deliver.

The state can keep saying the clock is still ticking on their plan, but the numbers are already in, and they aren't cooperating. 

This kind of math is the reason why Downwinders, the Sierra Club and other groups are requesting EPA to reject the state plan that now has arrived at its doorstep. It's the reason both Dallas County and the City of Dallas passed resolutions requesting the same, and the reason why both Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson and Congressman Marc Veasey wrote a letter directly to EPA asking that the agency step in and do the job the state will not do. 

Rejection of the bad state plan is the necessary first step in setting the stage for a more comprehensive EPA plan – one that would include all the large sources of smog pollution affecting DFW that have been untouched by state air plans over the last decade: like the oil and gas industry, the Midlothian cement kilns, and the East Texas coal plants. 

We're tired of failure. We've experienced 25 years of it. We're experiencing it again this year. If you're tired of dirty air too, please contact us about how your city and county can pass a resolution asking the EPA to reject the state's plan and start writing one that will actually work.