EPA Adds Wise and Hood Counties (and their gas industry pollution) to DFW Non-Attainment Area

by jim on December 9, 2011

Yesterday the EPA sent Governor Perry a letter saying that it had rejected the state’s recommendation to keep the DFW non-attainment area for smog, or ozone pollution, restricted to the same nine counties, and instead will expand it to include Wise and Hood Counties. This is overdue good news. Wise County is where the pollution from DFW often goes during”ozone season” when south by southeast winds blow everything north by northwest. TCEQ has been avoiding putting any ozone monitors in Wise County for fear of the high levels of ozone pollution they might find there which would make DFW air quality look even worse that it already is. Wise County is also the birthplace of horizontal fracking of gas hosts countless wells, compressors, pipelines and a huge processing facility in Bridgeport. These emissions, along with the commuter travel from Wise to the rest of DFW, and the fact that the county is already part of the regional transportation authority, are all reasons why it’s being included in this latest designation. Hood County’s Gas drilling and commuter travel is primarily responsible for its inclusion, although it hosts some power plants as well. According to the EPA, high ozone readings near Wise, “indicates that this county should be included in the nonattainment area. … The high growth in these emissions is due in large part to growth in emissions from Barnett Shale gas production development, but also due to growth in population.”  It’s the first time the EPA has added counties to the North Texas non-attainment area because of gas industry pollution. Both counties will now be automatically included in the air quality planning process that will determine what the next DFW clean air plan, aimed at the new 75 parts per billion federal ozone standard announced in September, will look like. No start date for that process yet, but the final plan for DFW to reach 75 ppb must be submitted by 2015 or so which means we may see the machinery gearing up after next year’s presidential election. Meanwhile, new restrictions will begin to be introduced, including “off-sets” (new large “stationary” source of pollution can’t relocate to Wise or Hood without committing to reducing more smog-forming pollution than they would emit) and vapor recovery units on gas station pumps.

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