Asthma

by jim on April 10, 2012

Comply or Be Shut Down

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Public outrage over cement plant pollution has sparked a government ultimatum that the industry must comply with new emission standards in three months or risk being shut down temporarily or permanently. This isn't happening n Western Europe. And because this isn't fiction, it's not the US either. No it's Dubai.  It's part of a larger effort to reduce polluiton from cement plants by 50% in three years  in that country, which is still experiencing a construction boom. Plus, how's this for nice touches, the plants also have to "ensure 50 per cent of the boundary of their factories be covered with trees and other foliage, to mitigate some of the carbon dioxide emissions and to 'improve the ecology' and appearance of the area."Meanwhile, we're hearing nasty rumors about the EPA possibly backing off its new cement plant emission rules that are due to be implemented in the fall of next year. Never thought we'd say it, but could we just be guaranteed the same kind of environmental protection as a Developing Country?  

So Sue Us: "Pollution From the Titan Cement Plant will Kill and Injure People"

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Titan Cement is trying to build a huge new cement plant near Cape Fear in North Carolina. People who live there areputting up quit a fight to prevent them from doing that. In order to get these people to settle down, Titan sued a couple of local residents, Kayne Darrell and pediatrician David Hill, who made comments at a County Commissioners' meeting that went like this: "…we know from numerous studies that if we build this thing, more children will get sick, a handful of them will die. We also know from the adult studies that more adults will get sick and quite a few more of them are going to die as well Which ones? Can't tell you. That makes it difficult, but there will be some." Quite right. We know all these things because numerous scientific studies show a very straight-forward relationship between the kinds of crud put out by cement plants and rates of asthma, heart attacks, strokes, etc. There is nothing the least slanderous or libelous about saying so. And yet Titan sued in hopes of intimidating not only the two citizens it sued, but everyone else who wanted to speak up but now would be afraid of getting sued. That's how SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Agains Public Participation) suits work. No one ever expects to win a case. If you're a company, you win just by filing because it shuts people up, or a least that's the intent. Well, today comes word that Titan and the citizens have "settled" the case and Titan now "recognizes that reasonable minds have the right to disagree, and respect both Dr. Hill and Ms. Darrell's right to do so." Isn't that precious? The Greek Multinational Cement Giant agrees that the quaint American First Amendment is still the law of the land here. In organizing, we often say it's all about relationships and the Titan press release onthe matter seems to bear this out. "Prior to today's mediation, we had not personally met and spoken with Dr. Hill and Ms. Darrell," Titan said in a statement. "Having done so, we do not believe that either Dr. Hill or Ms. Darrell intentionally made any false statements about Titan or our plant in New Hanover County." So you know, all it took was seeing that in fact these citizens were not horned devils for the company to change its mind. For his part, Dr. Hill would not comment on the resolution Wednesday except to say, "I look very much forward to being able to focus all my energy on my efforts to improve the health of children in this region." Both defendants will release a statement in the next 24 hours according to their attorney. Meanwhile, Titan won its state air permit, but its's still not a free and clear path to construction.  

The Case For Local Control of GHG Pollution in 3 Easy Articles

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

It doesn't often work out this way, but three related stories came over the transom recently that so eloquently spelled out the case for Dallas regulating the Greenhouse gas pollution from the gas industry, that we could have written them ourselves. but we didn't have to. Downwinders and the Dallas Residents at Risk alliance support the idea of the City of Dallas requiring the  "mitigating", or "off-setting"  of new and large air pollution emissions that come with gas drilling. For every ton of Greenhouse Gas emitted by a new well, or compressor, or storage tank, the operators would have to fund a project that would reduce that same amount of pollution in Dallas, so that there would be no net increases in pollution. So why do this? ARTICLE #1: The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review covers a local permit for a gas compressor station that could emit between 20 and 90 tons of smog-forming Nitrogen Oxide, also a Greenhouse Gas. The state already has almost 400 such facilities because of its location in the Marcellus Shale gas play. According to the article, "The stations, which compress gas to get it to move through pipelines, release air pollutants that compound the state's long-standing ozone problem." Gas drilling brings large amounts of new air pollution that isn't covered under current regulations on either the state or federal level. Just one compressor station in Dallas could spew more Greenhouse Gas pollution than all the current industrial sources in the city combined. ARTICLE #2: The New Scientist gives voice to the growing perspective that the fastest way to affect climate change progress is to cut methane and soot emissions, not necessarily CO2. "Methane is a more important control on global temperature than previously realised. The gas's influence is much greater than its direct effect on the atmosphere," says Peter Cox, of the University of Exeter. Curbing methane, he adds, may now be the only way to prevent dangerous warming. "Oil and Gas sources in the US make-up 40% of all industrial methane pollution releases. Dallas has signed the US mayors agreement to reduce its Greenhouse Gas emissions. It won't be ale to keep that commitment if it allows gas drilling without some form of mitigation or off-settingARTICLE #3: A piece from the San Luis Obispo Tribune that details how a local county air pollution control board is now regulating greenhouse gases for new housing and commercial developments. What are they doing? Requiring mitigation. "The staff estimates that of 1,142 projects countywide over the next 10 years, 56 would be large enough to require mitigations. Mitigations usually come in the form of sidewalks, bike paths and other amenities that discourage the use of cars.Other developments could be exempted if they are covered by a qualified local emission reduction strategy…." Dallas wouldn't even be the first to think about GHG emission control on the local level, although it might be the first to apply it to the gas industry. Because that's what the biggest new threat to air quality in Dallas is 

There's an App for That: "Fracking 101" PowerPoint Now Ready to Download

Monday, April 02, 2012

 

Look over there on the right hand column of the site and now, finally, you can download the "Fracking 101" PowerPoint that Downwinders at Risk's Jim Schermbeck showed at last Tuesday's citywide organizing meeting on drilling in Dallas. There are short narration notes at the bottom of most of the slides to help guide you through the presentation. Please feel free to share and adapt to your own purposes. Thanks for your patience. 

 

2012 to Be Most Awesome Ozone Season Ever

Monday, April 02, 2012

Sunday marked the officialstart of the 2012 ozone season. Unofficially, it began the week before on March 24th, when both the Frisco and "Dallas North" ozone monitors operated by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality recorded violations of the new federal standard of 75 ppb, and then on March 25th, when the Keller, Grapevine, and Eagle Mountain Lake monitors also all recorded violations of the 75 standard. Frisco came within less than a single ppb of being in violation of the old 85 ppb and set the record for the highest March ozone reading TCEQ's ever recorded. It's this old 85 ppb standard that DFW is still trying to meeteven as the regulatory goalposts have been moved back to account for new science linking smog to heart attacks and strokes at lower levels of exposure. In submitting its new clean air plan to EPA to finally get below 85 ppb, you might remember that TCEQ predicted that in 2012, DFW would see the lowest ozone averages ever recorded - primarily because so many people are replacing their older more polluting cars with newer, cleaner ones. This prediction even came two months after the end of the 2011 ozone season showed DFW had worse smog than Houston. No, state leaders were not deterred by naysayers in taking a strong, optimistic stand for clean air when it came time to turn-in its compliance plan for EPA. Theirs is a faith-based initiative. According to Austin, all 18 DFW air quality monitors will be registering lower levels of smog in 2012 than any of them have ever recorded in the decade since monitoring began in DFW. At some monitors, TCEQ predicts summer maximums will drop by 40 parts per billion or more, an annual decrease no monitor in DFW has ever registered. Given the high readings from March already, it's hard to believe that this prediction could possibly come true, but hey, they're the experts,right?  So put away those gas masks and get out and breathe that fresh North Texas air. Haze? No, that's just steam.  

Weekly Tuesday Evening Dallas Drilling Planning Meetings Begin Tomorrow at 7pm

Monday, April 02, 2012

 

Just a quick reminder to note that tomorrow evening theDallas Residents at Risk alliance (of which Downwinders is a member) that sponsored last Tuesday's successful citywide organizing meeting in Old East Dallas will be starting their weekly planning meetings to coordinate outreach and education connected to the passing of a new Dallas gas drilling ordinance. We'll be meeting every Tuesday from here on out until a final ordinance is passed, always at the same central location – the Texas Campaign for the Environment offices, on the 4th floor of an office building in Oak Lawn, right across from Lee Park, at at 3303 Lee Pkwy #402We don't expect everyone interested to make every meeting, but we want you to know where you can find us when you can make it. We're still struggling to get our slideshow to go through the Intertubes  and get posted on this site so you can download it, but meanwhile, here's where you can find all the written materials from last Tuesday's meetings. Some folks have asked if last Tuesday's show can hit the road and come to their enighborhood? YES WE CAN. Just contact Downwinder's Jim Schermbeck through this website at info@downwindersatrisk.org and we can work with you to bring the slideshows and speakers to your part of Dallas. And if you belong to a group of any kind, we encourage you to download the resolution at the top of the page, pass it at your next meeting and let us know so we can add yo to the list of organization endorsing these very basic public health protections. 

 

Fracking Makes Our Bad Air Worse

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A lot of people may think that the largest public health problems linked to horizontal gas drilling,or fracking, are all water-related. They are not, at least not yet. It's the huge amounts of air pollution fracking generates and its consequences for nearby residents, downwind dwellers, and the planet as a whole that are really pose the paramount risks to the most people. Take smog. Saturday's record-setting ozone levels remind us again that DFW is a 21-year old chronic violator of the Clean Air Act. Fracking generates both kinds of smog-forming pollutants identified by the EPA and the state – Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) from combustion sources, and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) from the leakage and "upsets" of chemicals in tanks, pipelines, and other facilities and pieces of equipment. In 2006, NOx pollution from the gas industry was estimated to be over 68 tons per day by the state. That was more than all three cement plants in Midlothian combined, plus every other large stationary source of NOx pollution in the region. By this year that number is expected to drop by 2/3rds because of new rules by the state requiring more modern diesel engines and less drilling in the Barnett Shale in general. TCEQ believes NOx pollution has more of an impact on DFW ozone levels than VOCs, and so it got more serious about regulating the NOx pollution from fracking. But that theory is being seriously tested. This year, again according to the state, all the cars and trucks in DFW will produce 80 tons per day of VOC air pollution. Oil and gas production in DFW will produce 114 tons per day of the same kinds of pollutants – 34 more tons a day than all cars and trucks combined, and the largest emissions by far from any one industry in North Texas. TCEQ says not to worry about the smog impact of these gas VOC emissions because they're aren't as reactive or volatile as the kind vehicles emit and are less likely to form ozone. Independent scientists and regulators disagree, especially given the volume of the pollution. Denver officials believe that when already dirty air – from other urban areas, or coal plants or cement plants – combines with the VOCs from the gas industry, it actually makes the gas VOCs more volatile, and more likely to form ozone. This phenomenon has never been incorporated into the computer modeling TCEQ uses to predict ozone formation in DFW. In 2011, DFW had its worst smog season in five years, even as the state refused to significantly cut VOC emissions from the gas industry. You don't have to live near a gas well to feel the effects of the drilling going on in North Texas. All you have to do is breathe.  The same VOCs that cause smog are also the most responsible for making near-by residents ill with their toxic fumes.Benzene, formaldehyde, and other VOCs are routinely released or escape from gas facilities. A recent Colorado School of Public Health study found a resident's cancer risks increased 66% when they lived within a half mile, or over 2000 feet from a fracking operation. Many of the chemical exposures recorded residents near wells by way of state-issued hand held canisters are exactly the same ones Midlothian residents found when they used the same canisters to test their bad air downwind of the cement plants when they were burning hazardous wastes. And the official response is the same as well. Despite the fact that the resident is testing the air when he or she is feeling the health effects of air pollution, the levels of poisons never seem to reach above mandated levels of concern that would trigger action. But of course those levels are based on theory and never put to the test in any epidemiological way – except when residents' experience contradict the theory – and then its the residents who must be mistaken, not the theory. If you live next to a fracking well operation, you live next door to a hazardous facility that's capable of generating toxic air pollution just like a hazardous waste incinerator, a chemical plant, or refinery. Finally,  the same air pollution from gas operations that causes smog and sick people also contributes to climate change.  Fracking, along with gas processing, and especially compressors to generate pressure instead of wells and pipelines produce very large volumes of Greenhouse Gases. A recent EPA survey of GHG from all Texas facilities shows compressor stations spewing anywhere from 10,000 to over 90.000 tons of GHG pollution. Industry spokespeople say not to worry because most of this is methane that is relatively short-lived compared to other kinds of Greenhouse Gases like CO2.  The problem with that argument is that while it might have a shorter life span, methane is many times more potent in its greenhouse effect. So much so that a recent groups of climate change experts recently said that the best thing we could do in the short term for negating climate change would be to concentrate on reducing methane and particulate matter pollution.This is most relevant to Dallas because of all North Texas cities, it's the one that has officially pledged to cut its GHG pollution along a specific timetable. Just one compressor station within its city limits and any hope of meeting those goals is lost. So one kind of air pollution from the gas industry is responsible for all three impacts – local, regional and global. That's why the Dallas Residents at Risk alliance has endorsed off-setting, or balancing any increases in GHG emissions caused by the gas industry with industry-sponosored reductions in Dallas that keep our total air pollution burden from skyrocketing. It's the first time this strategy has been advocated and it is the only brand new idea to be included in the Dallas Gas drilling Task Force as a "suggestion" in its cover letter to the City Council. Even its members saw the collision of City of Dallas promises to clean the air with opening the door to fracking. Gas isn't cleaner than coal in DFW. It's just as bad or worse.  

DFW Posted the Highest March Ozone Pollution on Record Saturday

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Beginning at noon on Saturday and continuing until 7pm, the air monitor in Frisco recorded a 75 parts per billion or higher level of ozone, a violation of the new smog standard just adopted by EPA. By evening it had come within less than 1 part per billion of violating the obsolete 85 ppb standard. It was the single highest ozone reading on a day in March since air monitoring for the pollutant began in DFW in the late 1990's. A violation of the 85 ppb standard this early in the year would also have been an historic first because according to the government, "ozone season" doesn't even officially start until April 1. What made it even more spectacular was that it was on a Saturday – traditionally not a high-ozone day of the week in DFW. Not an auspicious start to a year when we're supposed to have the very lowest levels of ozone ever monitored, according to your Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. At least that's what they told the EPA when they had to submit a plan for cleaning-up DFW ozone way back in December. It's the miraculous new "free market new car pollution control measure" TCEQ has been touting for two years now that says so many more local residents will buy newer, cleaner cars that the air will reach almost Alpine purity by September. Unfortunately for Austin, all it took was some unseasonably warm weather in March (just an anomaly we're sure) to consign that prediction to the ash heap of previous TCEQ predictions about improving air quality in DFW. To achieve TCEQ's prediction for better 2012 ozone levels, Frisco's air monitor can't record anything higher than a 58 ppb  8-hour average this year. Yesterday, it was at 84.24 at the end of the worst eight hours that saw readings go as high as 96 ppb. Given the weather forecast for the rest of the week, it's not unthinkable that we'll have our first violation of that old 85 standard before April begins. We would say we told you so, but really, how smart do you have to be to know that another TCEQ optimistic prediction about DFW air quality would fail miserably right out of the gate?  

Las Personas Se Están Envenenando: "Latinos & Air Pollution" Panels in Dallas and Ft. Worth Next Week

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

State Representatives Lon Burnam, Rafael Anchia and Roberto Alonzo, along with the American Lung Association, are sponsoring a DFW road show on either side of the Metromess next week on the important subject of Latinos and Air Pollution.  On Tuesday, March 13th, from 9:30 to 11:00 am at the Tarrant County Medical Society at 555 Hemphill in Ft.Worth, Adrianna Quintero of the Natural Resources Defense Council will discuss that group's recent report, "U.S. Latinos and Air Pollution: A Call to Action" on the disproportionate effect of air pollution on Latinos in the United States and what can be done about it. Frederick Lopez of The American Lung Association will discuss the ALA's report, "Luchando por el Aire: The Burden of Asthma on Hispanics" which looks at how asthma affects Latinos and what can be done to reduce and prevent it. Then from 12 Noon to 1:30 pm that same Tuesday, at the Center for Community Cooperation at 2900 Live Oak, the whole thing is being repeated for the benefit of a Big D audience.  In 2005 the CDC found that ER visits due to asthma were almost twice as high for Hispanics than for non-Hispanic Caucasians. These new reports should be able to update those kinds of trends and track existing disparities among US Latinos.Y'all come.  

MARCH 27th: City-Wide Organizing Meeting on Gas Drilling in Dallas

Friday, March 02, 2012

In preparation for what could be a vote on a new ordinance as soon as April, The Dallas Residents at Risk Alliance, which includes Downwinders, is hosting a 4-Alarm, All Points Bulletin, city-wide organizing meeting on Gas Drilling in Dallas, 7 to 8:30 pm Tuesday, March 27th at the Center for Community Cooperation, 2900 Live Oak in Old East Dallas. We'll go through a brief overview of why fracking in densely urban areas is an especially bad idea, look at what the current situation is with gas well sites already in the pipeline, as well as what we know about the location of current gas leases. We'll have members of the Dallas Gas Drilling Task Force who were our reliable allies in the process. We'll look ahead at the work we have to do to get the industry-fueled last-minute rollback of protections set-aside by the Council in favor of more adequate safeguards. It doesn't matter what part of Dallas you live in – you'll be affected by gas drilling and your council member will be voting on a new ordinance governing how it should be done. Think climate change is an important issue? You can't make a better investment of your time on the issue than seeing that Dallas requires mitigation of gas industry Greenhouse Gas pollution. Want to protect water supplies? Preventing a water-intensive industry from robbing Dallas blind of its own water and then causing spills and leaks that will contaminate surface sources of water is worth your effort for the next two months. Want to see less smog?According to the state of Texas, local gas industry sources now emit more smog-forming Volatile Organic Compounds than all the cars and trucks n DFW. Just about any global or national environmental problem you can think of has a connection, or is made worse, by fracking in Dallas. We need your help now. This is not a drill. Mark it on your calendar and be one of the active citizens that keeps this intrusion from becoming a takeover.  

Adult Onset Asthma Rates on the Rise

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Long perceived as an illness affecting mainly children, asthma is now increasingly showing up as a new condition among adults who never had it. A just-released Ball State University study found a 14% adult asthma rate among Indiana adults, close to the national average. No one is quite sure what is to blame for the upsurge in adult onset asthma, and there's a long list of possible culprits, including indoor air pollution, outdoor air pollution, mold, smoking, and pets. "It's always a mystery how these adults suddenly come down with this," said Robin Costley, asthma educator for the Marion County Health Department and coalition manager of the Asthma Alliance of Indianapolis. "A lot of times nothing has changed. They just start having symptoms." The study found women and Blacks were about a third more likely to begin getting adult asthma symptoms than men and whites in general. Poverty was also an important factor. In some cost-benefit analysis of pollution impacts, asthma is often treated as a stepchild illness, not in the same league as early mortality, heart attacks, strokes and other serious ailments caused by pollution. But to anyone who has had to rush their child to the ER in the middle of the night because they're gasping for air, or experienced for themselves the helplessness of not being able to suck in enough air to breathe, the bottom line financial costs of getting the right medicine or missing school or work really don't do justice to the effect of the disease on a person or family.  

In Dallas, Citizens Draw Five Lines in the Shale

Monday, February 13, 2012

Last week, the coalition of local groups shadowing the Dallas Gas Drilling Task Force (including Dallas Area Citizens for Responsible Drilling, Dallas Sierra Club, Downwiders at Risk, Mountain Creek Neighborhood Alliance, and Texas Campaign for the Environment) released a 9-page letter they had sent to Task Force and City Council members outlining five ways to strengthen regulations being proposed for a new Dallas gas drilling ordinance. With only two more meetings left on its official schedule, the suggestions come just in the nick of time for the Task Force to consider. Whether they will or not is another matter, since there seem to be only three or so reliably citizen-friendly members, including Downwinders at Risk board member Cherelle Blazer. Nevertheless, with the release of this letter the citizens have signaled a re-trenching of position as they get closer to the Council actually deciding on what the contents of a new ordinance will be. These five issues will be central from here on out as we see whether Dallas has learned anything from its westerly neighbors' unfortunate run-in with the reality of opening your city to urban gas mining and all that it entails…..1) A 3000 foot setback for residential and commercial properties that is truly protective. 3000 feet is the distance recommended by the Army Corps of Engineers between fracking and dams. If it's good enough for dams, it's good enough for foundations, water mains and other structures at risk.  Since the task force has also decided to allow huge compressor stations on the well pad sites, this distance requirement is also more protective from the toxic emissions and insidious low decibel sound pollution from these kinds of facilities. Recent studies show that distances less than this could pose problems for places like schools.  2) Fully disclosure all chemicals for first responders. Despite industry's assertions, new laws in Texas and voluntary industry disclosure still allows for plenty of "trade secrets" to keep the real make-up of fracking fluid ingredients unknown. This lack of full disclosure poses an unacceptable risk to fire fighters, police officers and medical professionals who will be called upon to show up when there's an accident, emergency or spill. Just this last week, an Ohio paper discovered that a single gas well in that state used almost 500 tons of chemicals. But right now in Texas, there's no way of knowing the identity of all of them, or the volumes and conentrations on-site. Dallas first responders have a right to know when they put their lives on the line. 3) Better protect Dallas water security. The groups are asking the Task Force to recommend that Dallas ban the exporting of its water to other places for fracking purposes (Arlington already does this), to cut-off water for fracking during drought conditions (Grand Prairie already does this) and to charge twice as much for water for fracking because once it's used, it cannot re-enter the hydrological cycle. Already, there's a controversy about how much water Dallas is selling to other municipalities in the region. On the verge of what could be a long-term "drought-event," the city needs to protect its water security from an industry that can use 5 to 7 million gallons per well per frack job. 4) Neutralize Greenhouse Gas pollution from drilling. Dallas has signed a national agreement to rollback its Greenhouse Gas pollution to 7% below 1990 levels by THIS YEAR.  A city-wide inventory of Greenhouse Gases in March will tell us how far the city needs to go to accomplish this, but based on numbers just released by EPA, one gas compressor station could easily surpass all the Greenhouse Gas pollution currently produced by all the stationary sources in the city. Without "off-setting" new GHG pollution from drilling with new reductions, emissions will skyrocket and the city will never meet its goals.  Off-setting is done in DFW by EPA to make sure new facilities don't make things worse. For every pound of new pollution created, the facility has to reduce a pound somewhere else in Dallas. No other Shale city has attempted this kind of regulation, but no other Shale city has made a national commitment to reduce its GHG pollution. 5) Provide a fully-funded, well-staffed and fully-equipped oversight effort. The past ten years tell us it's folly to expect the State of Texas or EPA to provide the kind of 24/7 response to accidents, upsets and spills that is needed to adequately monitor gas drilling and protect citizens and property. Unless Dallas is prepared to spend lots of money on the job that other levels of government are not able or willing to do, it shouldn't even allow gas drilling in the first place…..The next-to-last Task Force meeting is on Tuesday the 21st, from 2 to 5 pm at City Hall 6SE. Expect more revelations and challenges by the citizens' group now that it's gearing up for a council fight.

Report: Traffic Causes More Asthma Than We Think

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Another in a series of new studies that links traffic pollution to increased illness has been published by the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and concludes that such pollution is responsible for more asthma and more medical costs than previously believed. Conducted in Long Beach and Riverside California, the study"…found that total additional asthma-specific costs due to traffic-related pollution is about $18 million per year in that area, almost half of which is due to new asthma cases caused by pollution. People who live in cities with high traffic-related air pollution bear a higher burden of these costs than those who live in less polluted areas."  One episode of Bronchitis cost an average of $972 to treat and annual costs reached up to $4000 annually, or a full seven percent of the median income in the area. Sylvia Brandt, one of the study's researchers noted that,“Traditional risk assessment methods for air pollution have underestimated both the overall burden of asthma and the cost of the disease associated with air pollution. Our findings suggest the cost has been substantially underestimated and steps must be taken to reduce the burden of traffic-related pollution.” 

Cement Plants Make You Sick

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Those folks in North Carolina opposing the construction of a giant new Titan cement plant on their coast have released a new study estimating that the proposed plant's particulate matter and smog could cause up to $6.5 million in local heath care costs in just five months of operation. The report focused on the two pollutants most associated with breathing difficulties and was written by ICF International commissioned by the Southern Law Center. "…the 31-page study used modeling software from the Environmental Protection Agency to analyze current and projected air quality numbers, then used that data to estimate the related health effects from May to September, typically North Carolina's hottest months." This comes on the heels of the epidemiological study out of Italy this month showing a strong association between exposure to cement plant plumes and children's respiratory health. And oh yeah, we also found this 2003 journal-published study from Chinashowing a strong correlation between living near a cement plant and premature births. Other than all those, no evidence at all that cement plant pollution is bad for your health. And here's a reminder that just saying the headline of this post out loud in North Carolina was reason enough for Titan to sue to citizen activists in an attempt to intimidate them and their peers.  

New Epidemiological Study: Kids Downwind of Kilns More Likely To Go to the Hospital

Monday, January 23, 2012

Thanks to fellow kilnhead Jim Travers, via our good and old friend Pat Costner, comes word of this new epidemiological studyof the population living adjacent to, and downwind from a cement plant in Italy, published January 14th in Environment International. According to the authors,"Epidemiological studies have shown the association between the exposure to air pollution and several adverse health effects. To evaluate the possible acute health effects of air pollution due to the emissions of a cement plant in two small municipalities in Italy (Mazzano and Rezzato), a case–control study design was used. The risks of hospital admission for cardiovascular or respiratory diseases for increasing levels of exposure to cement plant emissions were estimated, separately for adults (age > 34 years) and children (0–14 years)." It will come as no surprise to most of you that the study found a strong correlation between exposure to the cement plant's plumes and getting sick. "Statistically significant risks were found mainly for respiratory diseases among children…with an attributable risk of 38% of hospital admissions due to the exposure to cement plant exhausts. Adults had a… weaker attributable risk of 23%. Risks were higher for females and for the age group 35–64. These results showed an association between the exposure to plant emissions and the risk of hospital admission for cardiovascular or respiratory causes; this association was particularly strong for children." Lest you think Italian cement plants are any dirtier than US ones, realize that the Italian multinational Italcementi S.p.A, is the 8th largest cement manufacturer in the US, and that Italy has a SCR-equipped cement plant and the U.S. does not. These kinds of studies are extremely hard to do and that's why you don't see them often. That's too bad because they're one of the only ways you can ever put the circular logic of TCEQ and industry "toxicology" to the acid test. Everything leading up to granting an permit to pollute in Texas is based on guesstimates about how the new facility or equipment will operate and what its public health impacts will be. While it's now possible to determine if the plant may or may not be complying with the purely operational aspects of the permit, what check and balance can determine that it's not causing a public health problem? For the TCEQ, it's the theology/hypothesis that it's quite impossible for long-term, low-level chemical exposures to harm people because there's no proof. When citizens directly challenge this belief system with sampling results taken even as they were experiencing adverse health effects, showing the presence of industrial by-products in the air they're breathing, but below "safe levels,"  the state says that something else must have been causing their health problems. In 2012, TCEQ is the environmental equivalent of a Medieval Pope. Don't confuse them with your evidence, they have a religion to run. Or in their case, an industry agenda to implement. This is why direct, on-the-ground epidemiological studies like this one (or even associative ones like the local Cook Children's Hospital one featured in the graphic above) are so important. They are not guesstimates. They're not an hypothesis. They're real science telling you the system is not performing as predicted. We bet the Italian cement plant's permit promises not to cause a public health nuisance. And yet it appears that it does.  

Mighty Changes From Little Struggles Flow: Another Downwinders Success Story

Friday, December 30, 2011

This is not a story that will ever make national headlines. It hardly even got a respectably-sized article in the town where it's taking place. But for beat-down citizen-soldiers of the air wars looking for proof that their own local battles can affect national policy, it's a tale worth telling. Yesterday, the Department of Justice and EPA announced a settlement agreement with a multinational cement company called ESSROC. Among other things, the agreement calls for the pilot testing of advanced Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) pollution control technology at ESSROC's two obsolete wet kilns in Logansport, Indiana. Wet kilns like the three at Ash Grove's Midlothian plant. It will be the first demonstration of this remarkable technology on wet kilns anywhere in the world. Last year, DOJ reached a similar agreement with LaFarge Cement that's requiring a pilot test of SCR on a dry kiln in Illinois. Those results are due by July, 2013. The results from the wet kilns in Indiana will be due by May, 2015. This will be about the time the DFW area is trying to assemble a new clean air plan to reach the just-announced ozone standard of 75 parts per billion. We'll have pilot tests of SCR on both types of kilns in Midlothian, and Downwinders will be using those tests to advocate finally requiring SCR on all Midlothian cement kilns. In use in European cement kilns for a decade, SCR – basically a huge industrial size version of the catalytic converter every US car has – has been proven to reduce emissions of smog-forming Nitrogen Oxides by 90% or more, while also reducing Particulate Matter pollution, metals, and dioxins. It's considered the gold standard of kiln control technology. When it does end up in Midlothian, SCR will be coming back to the kilns and people that are responsible for its import into the US. That's because Downwinders was the first citizens group in the country to began advocating the use of SCR in cement kilns – way back in the year 2000, as part of a DFW anti-smog plan. Impossible the state and cement companies said. Too expensive. Not technically feasible. We didn't win, but we kept up with information about the technology. A couple of years later, our modest assistance to a group of citizens fighting a proposed Holcim cement plant right on the banks of theHudson in New York gave us access to their hired engineering expertise, which had done its own technical review of SCR in Europe. We took that information and made it a basis for a demand in our own settlementwith EPA and TCEQ over the failed 2000 DFW air plan to do an independent review of SCR for application to the Midlothian kilns. That 2006 study is still the only study of its kind in the nation. Much to TCEQ's lasting chagrin, that report confirmed that SCR was technically and economically feasible for application on the Midlothian cement plants. TCEQ has done its best to run away from that report every since, even having its staff perjure themsleves in state legislature testimony about its conclusions, but it got published and distributed nationwide. Other states and engineers read it, and are still using it. During this same time Downwinders, with the help of funding acquired through yet another settlement, hired its first ever technical expert, a young engineer from SMU named Al Armendariz. One of his jobs was to review the SCR report we'd generated and collect more data on the track record of the technology in Europe. By the end of his stint, he was somewhat of an expert on cement control technology, especially SCR. And then he went to go to work as the Regional Administrator of EPA. As it happens, EPA was in the middle of a national enforcement initiative involving the entire US cement industry. Many of the violations that were found revolved around illegal and excessive emissions of Nitrogen Oxides. Downwinders pressed for SCR pilot tests as part of these agreements. In January, 2010 EPA and DOJ announced the LaFarge settlement requiring a first-ever US pilot test of SCR. In discussions with EPA Midwestern staff afterwards, it was clear that the TCEQ report and Downwinders's efforts were well-known and provided the technical evidence to help drive the settlement talks toward including an SCR provision. Yesterday' announcement of a new round of SCR pilot-testing indicates that influence is still being felt…..Did we need luck? Absolutely. Did we make our own luck? Absolutely. We were opportunistic as hell. We advanced the cause at every turn. We fit square pegs into round holes. Unrelated developments got pulled into relationships that built on previous steps because we saw a path that nobody else did. We slowly built the technical and political scaffolding we needed. And these last two years have seen the fruits of that strategy. What began as a demand for a specific control measure for a local DFW clean air plan has now brought the entire US cement industry to the brink of using a control technology that could bring massive reductions in pollution nationwide. This is a story about the un-sexy, un-Erin Brockovich way of grinding out incremental social change with small groups of very persistent people. And it's the way progress is made most of the time. Want to change the world? Start in your own backyard.  

An Alliance of Docs and Moms

Monday, December 26, 2011

You just can't beat this for an opening sentence: "When winter comes to Utah and atmospheric conditions trap a soup of pollutants close to the ground, doctors say it turns every resident in the Salt Lake basin into the equivalent of a cigarette smoker." That's from an article summarizing a new effort to bring accountability to a single open air copper mine that's responsible for a third of local air pollution. State regulators have let the mine double its allowable production, flaunting a 1994 EPA agreement. In response, Utah Moms for Clean Air has teamed up with Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment to enforce that federal rule and bring the mine to justice. "There's no safe level of particulate matter you can breathe," said Salt Lake City anesthesiologist Cris Cowley, who is among a number of Utah doctors raising the alarm over some of the nation's worst wintertime air…Rio Tinto is making our blood vessels act as if they were seven years older," said Dr. Claron Alldredge, an opthamologist at LDS Hospital." Since it's inception, Downwinders has known that there's no greater dynamos for change than angry moms. But we've always had a problem finding doctors that would speak publicly about the dangers of air pollution. Our question: Why isn't there a Texas Physicians for a Healthy Environment?  

Doctors: Acetaminophen Use Increases Asthma Risk

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

In today's New York Times,  there's aninteresting summary of the case against acetaminophen as a pain reliever in kids based on its propensity to significantly increase asthma. According to the theory, when Aspirin was linked to Reye's Syndrome in the 1980's, parents switched to alternatives using acetaminophen like Tylenol. That was bad news, because acetaminophen reduces the child's level of gluetathione, an enzyme that helps repair damage that can cause inflammation in the airways. Since 1998, when this link was first discovered, over 20 research papers have been published that support this theory, including ones that observed a 50% greater risk of developing asthma among children taking the drug, versus those that did not.  More dosage equals more harm. Taking acetaminophen once a month for three months increased a child's risk of asthma by threefold. Last month, Dr. John T. McBride, a pediatrician at Akron Children’s Hospital in Ohio, published a paper in the journal Pediatrics arguing that the evidence for a link between acetaminophen and asthma is now strong enough for doctors to recommend that infants and children who have asthma (or are at risk for the disease) avoid acetaminophen all together.  

Downwind of its own Cement Plants, Austin Barely Attains Safe and Legal Air

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Despite DFW and Houston having very bad smog years, the Austin-San Marco Metropolitan Area managed to achieve compliance with the new 75 parts per billion ozone standard in 2011 – but just barely. The San Marcos Mercury runs down the particulars, including the origin of Central Texas air pollution where half of the amount of ozone is from on-road vehicles, 20-25 percent is from non-road sources like construction and agricultural equipment, and the remaining 25-30 percent is from industrial sources such as power plants, cement kilns, lime kilns, and oil/gas production equipment. Cement kilns? Why yes. In fact, the Lehigh cement plant in Buda, south and upwind of Austin, is the largest point source in the Austin MSA for nitrogen oxide (NOx) – a major smog-forming pollutant. Also upwind of Austin, TXI, Capitol and Alamo cement plants form the second largest cluster of kilns in Texas (second only to Midlothian) between New Braunfels and San Antonio. And don't forget all the Eagle Shale pollution south of San Antonio that'll also find its way to the Capitol City on some "ozone season" days.  There's no question that should smog get worse in Austin (likely), or the ozone standard come down to 70 ppb in 2014-2015 when it's next reviewed by EPA (likely if President Obama is still in office) Austin air quality planners will be looking to how Downwinders worked to reduce NOx pollution from the Midlothian cement kilns. Nor is Austin the only American city that will have to deal with cement plant pollution because of more protective ozone standards in the coming years. As "non-attainment areas" get bigger, more cement plants that were "out in the country" will all of a sudden be in the upwind backyard of metropolitan areas. In this respect, the template that Downwinders has helped establish in Midlothian/DFW – retrofitting pollution controls for 30 to 40% reduction, while pushing for newer systems from Europe that can get up to 90% reductions – will be serving as a national model for years to come. "Give us a place to stand, and we can move the world." 

When a Power Plant Spews Its Crap in China, It Causes a Drought in Texas?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Many of you know the cliche of Chaos Theory made famous by  "Jurassic Park's" Jeff Goldblum, that "when a butterfly flaps its wings in China, it causes a hurricane in Florida." Now science has produced the environmental equivalent of that theory by showing how massive amounts of air pollution from China is affecting weather patterns in the western U.S. CBS News interviews a scientist working on the relationship at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. "The atmosphere has no walls. So pollution on this side of the world can make it the other side of the world in about five days," she says. In this case, Chinese PM/soot is carried by the jet stream across the Pacific and stops the clouds in the western U.S. from producing rain and snow.  

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

Friday, December 09, 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.  

FW Weekly Reviews the State of DFW Air

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

With the Star-Telegram abandoning the idea of having an environmental reporter all together, and the de facto abandonment of environmental beat coverage at the Dallas Morning News, DFW residents are having to rely on the alternative weeklies to provide the kind of coverage they used to get in the dailies. This week, the Ft. Worth Weekly provides another example of this trend with an excellent retrospective of where DFW air quality stands after the worst ozone season since 2007. Kudos to Weekly editor Gayle Reaves for taking up the slack and committing journalism in the name of public interest.  

Arlington: Where Clean Air Plans Go To Die

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Tuesday morning saw the last 2012 meeting of the North Texas Clean Air Steering Committee at the Council of Government's HQ in Arlington. It was also the lowest point in DFW air quality planning in the last 20 years. On the agenda was a summary of the latest TCEQ clean air plan for DFW, the one that predicts we'll have the cleanest air we've ever had next summer - just in time to avoid a third failure in reaching a 1997 85 parts per billion smog standard in the last five years. Downwiders Director and Committee member Jim Schermbeck grilled TCEQ engineer David Brymer about the probability of every DFW monitor hitting historic lows in 2012, as the TCEQ computer model driving this air plan predicts. "It'll be very challenging," was his response. No. Getting unemployment below 7% is challenging. Having the cleanest air on record a year after suffering the worst air in five years is downright impossible, and TCEQ knows this. EPA knows this. Everyone knows this. And yet the TCEQ Commissioners will be voting to submit this DOA plan to EPA next Tuesday, because "the modeling" shows we'll be doing great! Sitting through this TCEQ storytelling time was a minority of Committee members. Only a handful bothered to show-up, and most of them left before the final discussions. Attendance at these meetings over the last two years by almost everyone but the three environmental representatives has been awful. But maybe the reason a lot of them didn't show up on Tuesday was because their decision to trust TCEQ back in January and not vote to recommend any new pollution reduction strategies for this clan air plan seems even more foolish and irresponsible now  – after the worst smog since 2007 and a state plan that was written by Mother Goose. "The TCEQ knows best" mentality was ever-present this time around, fueled of course by people who've never dealt with TCEQ, and/or who are ideological soulmates of Governor Perry who don't want any new pollution controls measures imposed by government. Missing from this cycle of air quality planning was the gravitas of past sessions, where there was actually some seriousness about cleaning the air. But no worry, we'll all be back at it in a year or so when the regulatory machinery will be gearing-up for a new clean air plan for DFW to meet the new ozone standard of 75 ppb. Nothing in life is certain but death, taxes and DFW smog plans.  

State Officials Predict Best-Ever Air Quality for DFW in 2012

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Computer modeling in DFW’s newest anti-smog plan concludes that North Texas will reach historical – some would say ridiculous – levels of clean air next summer, only months after the region recorded its worst air pollution levels in half a decade.  

How a Dallas-Based Corporate Think Tank Supplied the Ammunition to Mislead on Asthma

Friday, November 18, 2011

You may have heard of the National Center for Policy Analysisbefore. They have an office up on Coit in North Dallas. They get lots of money from corporations like Exxon to pretend to do some "analysis" that's really just warmed over talking points from those corporations that they then release and try to sell to the public as original talking points from an independent third party. You know, kinda like Big Tobacco did in the 70's, 80's, 90's, and oh, yeah, they're still doing it.  Given that description, you will not be surprised to learn they're one of the fertile greenhouses for Governor Perry's corporate cronyism and administration appointees. But this time, it's the freshman Senator From Kentucky, Rand Paul, who used their, huh, "analysis" to declare on the Senate floor that there's no relationship between air pollution and asthma. This is not true. There are plenty of studies over the last two years alone that show a direct connection between air pollution like Particulate Matter and Ozone and asthma – either causing its on-set directly, or making existing conditions worse. Like here, and here, and here. These are studies that have been peer-reviewed and journal-published. Senator Rand's NCPA-supplied evidence for the contrary opinion – not so much. In fact, the author of the piece Rand uses on the Senate floor actually misuses the data that he claims makes his point and gets caught by the agency that published the paper he's trying to hi-jack. We wouldn't know any of this were it not for the Washington Post fact checker being assigned to follow-up the Rand quote and who runs it down all the way back to Coit Road in Dallas, where corporate money gets the best made-up stuff money can buy.   

Better late than never: Texas Monthly does the Perry vs EPA story

Friday, November 18, 2011

TM's Nate Blakeslee gets the assignment to track down how Rick Perry runs against those crazy environmentalists and EPA the way George Wallace ran against those crazy civil rights marchers and the Justice Department. He can't quite bring himself to mention Downwinders' name when establishing Region 6 EPA Administrator Al Armendariz' credentials but we're represented nonetheless as, "a citizens’ group that won a judgment against one of the many cement manufacturing companies south of Dallas, which have long contributed to the Metroplex’s intractable air pollution problems." Nothing much new here, especially for those of us living this story, but it's good to see Perry's disastrous run for the Presidency have some decent side-effects like coverage of his anti-environmental stances. 
 

UK Report: 200,000 Deaths Every Year from Dirty Air

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A new study by members of the British Parliament who are organized into something called the Environmental Audit Committee concludes that 200,000 UK citizens die every year from breathing dirty air, which not only causes illness on its own, but exacerbates existing conditions. "Lewis Merdler, campaign manager at Environmental Protection UK, which leads the national Healthy Air Campaign, says air pollution in the UK has a huge impact on the nation’s respiratory and cardiovascular health, and particularly affects children and the elderly. 'Air pollution in the UK represents a huge public health crisis, contributing to more premature deaths than obesity and passive smoking combined,' he says. 'It’s a scandal the Government isn’t doing more to protect the most vulnerable in our communities from dangerous levels of air pollution.” 

New TXI Waste-Burning Permit Awarded With No Public Comment

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

(Dallas)—- Only three years after it finally stopped the controversial practice of burning hazardous waste at its Midlothian cement plant, TXI was awarded a permit in June by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality allowing the company to burn at least 12 new kinds of industrial wastes in its kiln without any public notice, comment, or hearing, and based only on other cement plants' data. 

NPR Focuses on Haz-Waste Burning in Kilns, with an Assist from Downwinders

Friday, November 11, 2011

 

As part of its "Poisoned Places" series this week, NPR ran a story in association with Slate Magazine and the Center for Public Integrity on Thursday that focused on the cement industry's "permission to pollute" when it comes to burning hazardous waste in kilns that were never designed for that job. Focusing on the 100-year-old Ash Grove cement plant in Chanute, Kansas, the producers explain how "Unlike hazardous-waste incinerators, cement kilns built or rebuilt before 2005 can release 43 percent more lead and cadmium, as much as twice the hydrocarbons, close to four times the hydrogen chloride and chlorine gas, and twice the particulate matter, according to EPA standards. Altogether, 13 kilns in six states operate under those standards and can emit toxics at those levels."  One can imagine the trouble local concerned citizens, led by the Galemore Family, have in trying to take on not only the largest industry in town, but one that's been there for a century, where their opponents labeled them "the Chanute al-Qaida." It's a situation Downwinders knows well from working in the company town of Midlothian for so long. But at least we were in a major media market and a metropolitan area downwind of the plants. The folks in Chhnute are out in the middle of a media desert, with no local Sierra Clubs to help them, no downwind cities who get the air pollution but not the tax base. All alone. That's one reason why we sent reporter Sarah Harris to Chanute for this story over a year ago. We met Sarah, a Dallas native, when she was doing a student media project that focused on cement plant pollution in Midlothian. Seeking to follow that up with a piece she could get published in the national media, we told her about the folks we had just met in Chanute and their plight. We urged her to visit the town and find out what it was like. She did. And about the same time, producers for NPR were looking for stories that focused on unusual toxic problems in the US. And that's how the story of the haz-waste-burning cement plant in Kansas ended up on national radio and in a national magazine by way of Downwinders. We Kilnheads have to stick together. 

 

Correction: Explaining the Two "Watch Lists" Featured in NPR's "Poisoned Places"

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

In trying to get the news out quickly about the four-part NPR/Center for Public Integrity series on toxic pollution in America titled "Poisoned Places," we didn't do a very good job of explaining the origin and purpose of the two different "watch lists" that the reporters discovered and publicized.  In fact, we're pretty sure we got it dead wrong. So here's a second try. There's a list that was begun by the Bush Administration in 2004 that included what the EPA considered "high priority violators" nationwide. As of September, this list was about 1600 names long. In North Texas, TXI, Holcim, Ash Grove, Exide, Magnablend, the GM plant, the Bell Helicopter plant, and over 100 other sites are included on this longer "high priority violator" list. There's a second, smaller "watch list" of 464 facility names of facilities nationwide with on-going violations, but which no administrative action has been taken to resolve. This is the list that only two North Texas sites are on – GE Engine in Ft. Worth and Ash Grove Cement in Midlothian.  National Map of the 1600 sites is here. State map of the Texas sites on the 1600 list is here.  

DFW full of "Poisoned Places"

Monday, November 07, 2011

Stung by criticism that it wasn't doing enough about cracking down on chronic polluters, and facing a tough re-election fight, the Bush Administration in 2004 established a secret "watch list" to help it identify the worst bad actors. If, after nine months of knowing about a critical environmental violation at a faclity, there still hadn't been any enforcement action, the facility took its place on the list. As of September of this year, that list had grown to 1,600 facilities. Thanks to NPR and the Center for Public Integrity, you can look at andinvestigate a map of the US identifying those 1600 plants, including over 100 in the DFW area when you use the Zoom tool the NPR website provides. Many names are familiar – TXI, Holcim, Ash Grove and theAmeristeel steel plant in Midltohian all make the list, as does the Exide lead smelter in Frisco, as doesMagnablend, the Waxahachie plant that just blew up, as does places you might suspect like the GM plant in Arlington or the Bell plant in Ft. Worth, However, there are lots and lots of places that maybe you haven't suspected, like the Americhem plant in Mansfield, or Valley Solvents and Chemicals in North Ft. Worth. The sites on the list are rated 1 to 5 on a EPA "Risk Factor Scale," with 5 being the maximum risk. All of those sites we just listed are all rated at Risk Factor 5 – that is the combination and/or volume of chemicals released make them among the most dangerous sites on that "watch list." But wait, there's more. Within this larger watch list, there's a second, more selective list of REALLY bad actors that numbers 464. Almost 10% of those sites are in Texas, but only two are in DFW: GE Engine Services on FAA Blvd. in Ft. Worth and our good friends at Ash Grove Cement. You remember Ash Grove – the owners of the last obsolete wet kilns in Texas that refuse to modernize their cement plant just south of DFW. As we remarked on Monday when DFW officially replaced Houston as the "Smog Capital of Texas," DFW hasn't historically been associated with dirty air and dirty industries the way the Gulf Coast has been. Unfortunately, that's changing.  

The View from Midlothian

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Here's a new Salon article on the continuing battle by House Republicans, including Smokey Joe, to roll back the 2008 cement plant emission rules that had overwhelming popular support, with an emphasis on what is means for Midlothian, "the Cement Capitol of Texas." As usual, the Midlothian city leadership distinguishes itself with its aggressive ignorance on the subject of cement plant pollution, and adopts the knee jerk position that any regulation of these facilities is over-regulation. That's the same fearless stand the city fathers took in the 1980's and 90's too – when there wasn't any regulation at all. Good to know they're keeping up with the changing times. One day in the future, Midlothian residents who don't make their living from cement are going to get tired of having their health threatened  by people who only have the cement plants' interests at heart. But not today.  

Smog is to Climate Change as Climate Change is to Smog

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A local California commentator take the results of the recent Fresno air pollution study and talks aboutthe connections between the old fight against smog and the new fight against global warming.Turns out there are a lot. That's why air quality advocates shouldn't be afraid to talk about Greenhouse Gases and air pollution in the same strained, wheezing breath.   

AP's Autopsy on Perry's New Do (More) Nothing TCEQ

Monday, October 17, 2011

The so-called "budget crisis" in Austin this last legislative session gave industry and their favorite presidential candidate the opportunity to slash the budget of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. One thing they cut were the programs that offer incentives to get your older, dirtier car fixed or buy a new cleaner one. You may recall that the idea of "fleet turnover" among DFW residents was the one and only way TCEQ was suggesting North Texas could escape its chronic smog problem. That's worked so well this summer that we're seeing the worst ozone levels since 2006. But the point is that it's the very strategy the TCEQ is promoting in DFW as a clean air solution has gotten gutted in Austin. So even if you were a true believer in TCEQ's fleet turnover shell game, you'd be hard-pressed to defend the efficacy of that approach now that it's been mortally wounded in the budget process. All they have now is a big box of nothing.  

Federal Ozone Soap Opera Continues

Thursday, October 13, 2011

 EPA administrator Lisa Jackson has a young son with asthma. That's one of the reasons she was such a passionate advocate for new, lower, tougher standards for ambient ozone pollution, or smog, before the rug got pulled out from under her by the President and his campaign advisers last month. In a newly released report that would have served as a preamble to a new 70 parts per billion (ppb) ozone standard in the Federal Register, Jackson and the EPA had formally concluded that the existing standard of 75 ppb endangered thousands of Americans, including people with existing respiratory ailments like her son. The Bush-era limit on ozone was “not adequate to protect public health,” and failed to take into account "newly available evidence," according to the original EPA language. Such a report will be fodder for the new lawsuitfiled by five environmental groups this week, which claims that the Administration's retreat from Jackson's recommendation was politically driven and not based on the best science. Meanwhile, because of the 2-year delay in setting a standard, chronic smog hotspots like DFW must now wait until close to the end of the decade to have any hope of getting safe and legal air to breathe.  

Pushing the Envelope: Dallas Residents Submit Their Own 21st Century Drilling Ordinance

Friday, October 07, 2011

Wednesday's Dallas City Council meeting saw the public debut of the recommendations from the alliance of residents and groups who launched the re-writing of the city's outdated gas drilling ordinance. It might be the most thorough and progressive collection of municipal protections ever assembled in the Barnett Shale.

Midlothian is the Congressional Poster Child for Cement Rules Again

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Throughout most of the last 15 years, various Downwinders board members have traveled east to testify to Congress or the EPA about the public health harms of living adjacent to a cement plant. Many times it's been on behalf of the emission standards passed in 2008 that were the first national industry air pollution standards Our name and situation are well-known among congressional staffers of those members of Congress trafficking in environmental and public health issues, like the esteemed Henry Waxman (D-Ca) former Chair of the House Commerce and Energy Committee. So it wasn't a complete surprise when Waxman used a graphic illustration of what's at stake with the House Republican plan to roll back the 2008 cement plant emission rules by enlarging the picture of the Baxter Elementary School's proximity to Holcim's cement kilns in Midlothian and using it in Wednesday's floor debate over the Cement Bill Regulatory Relief Act. Still, it's nice to know we're still he poster child for these rules. 

Another Ellis County Fire Reminds Us We All Live Downwind

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

In 1995, a Midlothian tire disposal company that collected, stored and shipped used tires for the near-by cement plants to burn in their kilns caught fire itself and burned for almost a month. It was located right across the street from the TXI plant. Black, toxic smoke wafted between high rise office buildings in Downtown Dallas for days. At the time, the fire was particularly and painfully ironic for Downwinders at Risk supporters who had been trying to tell people why burning tires in cement plants is a bad idea, as well as how Dallas air      could be affected by pollution from the cement plants despite the state saying they were too far away. Now, here in plain sight from Reunion Tower, columns of carbon black smoke thousands of feet high originating less than 2000 feet from TXI gave lie to the official assurances that the cement plant was too distant to affect DFW air quality, or that miniatures versions of this fire was supposed to be effective "recycling" of tire wastes. Oh yeah, the name of the tire disposal company? "Safe Tire." 

The Asthma Epidemic In North Texas

Monday, October 03, 2011

 Jan Jarvis plays the Star-Telegram's environmental reporter-for-the-day role and chronicles the updatedinventorying of North Texas asthma rates as reported by the Cook Childrens Hospital's Children's Health Assessment and Planning Survey, or CHAPS.  Two years ago Downwinders was specifically invited to a presentation on the asthma data, because of a certain graphic that mapped where the worst rates of children's asthma were in North Texas. It looked suspiciously like a graphic we'd been showing for years based on where the predominant winds push the pollution from the Midlothian cement plants. We report, you decide. 

Citizens Suing Over Wyoming Gas Smog

Monday, October 03, 2011

Local citizens groups with an assist by EarthJustice are suing EPA over the worse-than-LA smog found among the western rural gas plays in Wyoming.  For some reason, EPA has held off for two years in declaring the region a non-attainment area for ozone, despite a request from the state's Governor that it do so. This legal action ought to speed that up a bit.  

 

Gas Industry Tea Party Puppets Provide Comic Relief at EPA Hearing

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Call us Old School, but we just don't get corporate-sponsored Populism. William Jennings Bryant. "Fighting Bob" La Folette. Fiorella Laguardia. Teddy Roosevelt. The Koch Brothers? And the pitfalls of such a strategy were never more fully displayed than when a handful of Tea Party members right out of a Daily Show skit decided they would crash last Thursday's national EPA hearing on gas pollution in Arlington.

We're Having a Really (REALLY) Bad Air Day Final Update

Friday, September 30, 2011

We've been attending the EPA hearing in Arlington all day, but like a lot of you, we've been getting those "Orange Alerts" for high ozone levels. What we didn't realize until we looked at the individual monitors just now was HOW orange it was. We're seeing some of the highest single-hour readings all summer: 110 ppb at 2 pm in Keller, 107ppb in Grapevine at 2 pm, and 112 ppb at the Dallas North site at 1 pm. In all, there were six monitors with ozone levels in the tripe digits as of 3pmIt's too soon to say whether these will translate into any significant regulatory landmarks – new site highs, a new Design Value at Keller, etc, but one thing is certain. This last week of Ozone Season has been a microcosm of this entire summer, with higher ozone levels at more places throughout the region.  

Nature's Way of Telling You: Parker County is 7th DFW Monitor to Violate 85ppb Ozone Standard

Monday, September 26, 2011

Yesterday was September 26th. Saturday will be October 1 and the "official" end of the DFW "ozone season." We're supposed to be winding down the orange alerts and high ozone levels of Smogust. But someone didn't tell September.  Besides creating some records highs early in the month, yesterday saw both the Parker County and Keller monitors with extremely high ozone levels – in the triple digits – set a new Parker County seasonal high of 96 ppb, and pushed the Parker monitor into being the 7th DFW monitor to violate the old 85 ppb standard.  

Now They Tell Us

Monday, September 26, 2011

"Shelved ozone standard would have had modest impact on business, politics"  The Center on Public Integrity follows-up and wonders what all the fuss was about.  

If you needed more reasons to come to the EPA Nat'l Hearing on Thursday….

Monday, September 26, 2011

As many of you know, this Thursday, September 29th, from 9 am to 9pm at Arlington City Hall, the EPA will be holding one of only three national public hearings on new emission rules governing the gas drilling industry. At last glance, there were still a lot of empty speaking slots available in the mid afternoon and in the evening.  The first 5 or 6 slots are already filled with industry representatives. Don't let the EPA get the impression North Texas doesn't care about these emission, or that the industry speaks for us. These rules have been developed in part because of all the testimonies from citizens in the Shale already about the harms of air pollution from rigs, compressors, pipelines, etc.  

Plume Exclusive: EPA Directive On New Ozone Standard Sets Schedule for Tougher DFW Air Plan

Monday, September 26, 2011

As promised, we're posting the EPA's directive on the new old 75 ppb federal ozone standard. Administrator Jackson referred to the document in testimony on Capitol Hill Thursday and this weekend Region 6 made it available to Downwinders. This is the first outline of how the mechanics of the switch from the current 85 ppb standard to the new 75 ppb one will take place.You can find a pdf of the memo here, at the bottom of our "Safe and Legal Air Project" webpage. 

"The most dangerous attacks on clean air since the Clean Air Act was signed"

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Tomorrow marks the beginning of the House Republican assault on the Clean Air Act, including gutting rules that would reduce smog, mercury poisoning, and toxic air pollution of all kinds. Every week from now until Thanksgiving, Republicans will be targeting a different EPA policy for destruction, including the 15-years-in-the-making emission rules for cement plants that Downwinders was instrumental in winning in 2008.  

Cause and Effect: Ozone Rule Opponents Are 4 of Top 10 Obama Contributors

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Washington Independent digs around the Obama campaign money machine and finds all kinds of well-known polluters giving money to the President even as they trash the Administration's environmental policies:  

Report: Clean Air – Not Just for White People Anymore

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"Latinos would have a higher risk of disease and death without the (now gutted ozone) standards and would be affected more than other groups because they’re more likely to live in polluted areas, according to a report released by five groups. Asthma, bronchitis, organ damage and death rates would increase among the 39 percent of Latinos who live within 30 miles of a power plant and the one in two Latinos who live in the nation’s top 25 ozone-polluted cities such as Houston and Dallas,the report said." 

More on the Disappointing Politics of Obama's Ozone Retreat

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Thanks to Jo Ann Duman with the Arlington Conservation Council for forwarding this Grist analysis of the Obama Administration's decision to junk a science-based and more protective ozone standard for one pulled out of thin air in the last months of Bush Jr's reign. In this scenario, it's Obama's relatively new Chief-of-Staff Bill Daly who is the one to blame, as the author uses a WSJ excerpt to explain: 

EPA Responds Aggressively to Luminent's Disinformation Campaign

Thursday, September 15, 2011

We hope our friend Mr. Reaves has been watching the news the past couple of days because there's no better evidence that indeed Luminent Energy is playing high-level inside-the-beltway-chess with its employees than its own words and actions concerning the Air Transport Rule since last Monday's announcement. We expect the company to name a campaign manager any day now. 

"The Most Anti-Environmental House in History"

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Thanks to the redoubtable Henry Waxman, Congressman from Wisconsin for assembling thiscomprehensive data base on the current Congress'  torrid, shameful orgy of industry-backed legislation

Are there 108 Champions of Clean Air in DFW?

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

 

Why Attending September 29th's EPA Hearing on New Air Toxics Rules for rhe Gas Industry is Even More Important Now

Monday, September 05, 2011

Because it's the only way we're going to be able to significantly cut smog-forming pollution from the gas industry for the foreseeable future.

 

Gas production laces the air with toxic substances like sulfur dioxide and benzene, a volatile organic compound, or VOC, and emits pollutants that form smog, which blankets many Western gas fields. Ozone — the main component of smog — is created when VOCs and nitrogen oxide interact with sunlight. It can cause respiratory ailments, while VOCs themselves can be carcinogenic.

Because of the high pressure at which fracking fluid is injected into and flows back out of the ground, more pollution initially escapes from fracked wells than from conventional ones. Whether or not wells are fracked, pollutants leak out all along the production chain — from pipelines, storage tanks, diesel trucks and compressor stations. Tens of thousands of new gas wells have been drilled in recent years, and in production hubs, air pollution has simultaneously worsened. Ozone levels spiked above federal limits 26 times in rural Utah's Uintah Basin in the first three months of 2011.  There, and in Sublette County, Wyo., ozone levels have even exceeded those of famously smoggy Los Angeles.

Yet air-quality standards for oil and gas production haven't been updated in years; VOC standards have sat untouched since 1985. In late July, however, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed ambitious new air rules for the industry — among the first federal regulations of any kind to cover fracking. "They're a major milestone," says Jeremy Nichols, climate and energy program director for WildEarth Guardians, which, with another group, sued the EPA to prompt the new rules. "The emission reductions are just huge."

The rules would mainly cover VOCs and air toxics, pollutants such as sulfur dioxide that are known or believed to cause cancer and other major illnesses. They aim to cut the industry's overall VOC emissions by an estimated 25 percent, air toxics by 30 percent, and methane — a super-charged greenhouse gas — by 26 percent. Stricter VOC controls would be required at compressor stations, storage tanks and processing plants. Limits would be set for air toxics emissions, and new and refractured wells would have to be equipped to separate methane and smog-forming VOCs from water when they flow back out of a fracked well, a process known as green completion.

Without a new clean air plan to construct until 2012-2013, these new EPA rules are DFW's best hope for reducing sources of smog pollution which have gone mostly unregulated at the state and local level. We need to protect them and make sure they're implemented in full.

In 2008, almost 100 DFW residents spoke at an EPA hearing at DFW Airport on behalf of the new cement plant emission rules that will bring new controls to the Midlothian cement plants by 2013. We filled every speaker slot from 9 am to 9pm. It was an incredible success that demonstrated to industry and EPA that there was widespread popular support for the new rules – even in Texas.

We have to do the same thing on September 29th at the Arlington City Council Chambers. Sign-up for a 5 minute speaking slot - that's all we're asking, five minutes to tell the EPA why clean air is important to you and your family; five minutes to tell them your own stories about breathing fumes from drilling pads, or compressors, or processing plants; five minutes to say why you don't want to breathe poisons, no matter how large or small the levels.  Don't leave it up to someone else to testify. 

EPA Hearing on New Rules for Gas Industry Air Pollution

When: Thursday September 29th, from 9 am to 9 pm
Where: Arlington City Hall Council Chambers

You can register for a five minute time slot between 9am and 9 pm by calling Ms. Joan Rogers at EPA: 919-541-4487.

 

 

This way, you only hamper our ability to take a breath

Sunday, September 04, 2011

A cynical piece of fallout from yesterday's ozone standard decision buried in a Washington Post analysis piece.

For the past several years the gas industry in North Texas has repeatedly claimed that they're not really a significant source of smog-forming pollution, despite official inventories showing a huge rise in emissions from their sources since 2005. This rise was what fueled Downwinders at Risk's Fair Share Campaign this last spring to include more pollution cuts from gas sources in the official DFW "do-over" clean air plan that attracted the support of seven local North Texas city and county governments.

In words and manner reminiscent of the Midlothian cement plants' party line in the 1990's, gas company spokespeople argued that it was all those nasty old cars that you and I drive, and not their facilities, that cause our smog problems. What we emit, they said, was inconsequential, really. 

But on page 2 of the Post article, there is this piece of news about what those same gas companies have been saying to the Obama Administration in regard to a lower ozone standard: 

"Natural-gas companies, for example, argued to the administration that the rule might hamper their ability to take advantage of newly accessible natural-gas reserves."

As Kathy Martin, an oil and gas engineer that was one of the citizen expert witnesses for the Dallas Gas Drilling Task Force this past was quoted as saying, "I'm not anti-drilling. I'm just anti-lying. But sometimes they're the same thing." 
 

We're Going the Wrong Way…

Friday, September 02, 2011

  

What Does Obama's Decision to Adopt Bush Ozone Standard Mean for DFW?

Friday, September 02, 2011

Today the Obama Administration signaled its biggest environmental retreat to date, dropping any plans to lower the federal ozone standard to a level that's actually protective of human health. 

Instead, the EPA will stick with the 2008 standard of 75 ppb – a compromise that has no basis in the scientific literature and that ignored the advice of George Bush's scientists to set a lower one between 60 and 70 ppb to make sure public health was protected.

 

What does this mean for DFW air quality planning? 

1. In the short term – nothing. After two attempts since 2006, we still haven't meet the old 1997 ozone standard of 85 ppb. When the current TCEQ effort to reach this goal is officially declared dead next year, the wheels will start to turn toward writing A THIRD plan to try and reach it. No matter how much the new federal level goes up or down, DFW still has to keep trying to meet the old 85 ppb standard until we have a three-year running average of 84 ppb or less. Right now we're at 90 ppb.  

2. The George Bush Administration ozone standard of 75 ppb becomes the target for a brand new, separate clean air plan devoted to meeting it. In implementing it, the EPA must first draw new boundaries for the nation's "non-attainment areas" – those regions that will be subject to this new standard. In DFW that means that Wise County, and perhaps other outlying counties, will be added to the 9-county existing non-attainment area. But this boundary process might take up to two years because the state will fight it. When that's settled, then the state, along with the North Texas Clean Air Steering Committee, will once again a have the responsibility to write a plan to meet the new 75 ppb std. 

Unlike this year's "plan" by TCEQ of sitting back and hoping people buy new cars, a plan to get down to 75 ppb will have to have moving parts and affect all sources of ozone pollution – industrial, vehicular, and everything else.  That will be the opportunity to press for state-of-the-art controls for the Midlothian cement plants, the East Texas coal plants, and the gas industry, as well as more mass transit, better energy efficiency standards and a host of other strategies. For example, by 2013, there will be a pilot test completed of SCR technology on a US cement plant in Illinois. Those results can be used to press for SC technology at the Midlothian cement plants. 

Because Downwinders at Risk Director Jim Schermbeck serves on the North Texas Clean Air Steering Committee, we go this missive from the North Central Texas Council of Governments about an hour ago

TO:  North Texas Clean Air Steering Committee Members               
DATE:  September 2, 2011
FROM:  Mike Eastland
SUBJECT:  EPA Ozone Standard

The President announced this morning that he has requested EPA to wait until at least 2013 before establishing a standard for ozone in the 60-70 ppm range.  I have made contact with the EPA regional Office in Dallas to get more details on this and how this decision affects us in the meantime.  They had also just read the press release and are waiting to get more information from their colleagues in D.C. and North Carolina.

While not official, the most likely result is that EPA will begin implementation of the 75 ppm standard and the first step will be designation of those areas who will have to meet this standard and, of course, we are one of those.  If normal timelines are followed, the designations take one or two years.  Once they are made, states will have to start development of SIPs.

EPA will keep us updated as more information is made available and we will keep you informed.   When a clearer picture emerges, we will call a meeting of the Steering Committee and have the EPA and TCEQ give us a full report on all of this and how and when they will begin the process.

To read the President’s official statement please use the following link:http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/09/02/statement-president-ozone-national-ambient-air-quality-standards.

One day we might actually live to see these decisions based on the science instead of electoral plotting. In the meantime, we have to live with this compromise. 

In terms of a timeline, this isn't any different than what would have happened had EPA announced a 60 to 70 ppb standard today. We'd still have to wait a year or so for the boundaries designations to be settled. All that's really changed is that we have a standard that is at least 5 ppb higher than it should be based on protecting public health. 

So the first order of business is to start making the case of why Wise County should be included in DFW's non-attainment area. It's an easy case to make, but one the TCEQ really doesn't want to hear. Why? Well if you look at a lot of ozone plumes in our area, you'll often see the air pollution being pushed into Wise County from the rest of the Metromess. TCEQ suspects that ozone levels are going to be high there – that's why there are NO ozone monitors in Wsie County, even though the state's own modeling shows it's a hot spot for ozone pollution. The state is afraid the ozone levels recorded there will be so high as to throw the entire DFW region out of whack in terms of its alleged "progress."

The news that this president is once again settling for merely extending a policy of his predecessor instead of changing it is disappointing. But that doesn't mean we twiddle our thumbs for the next 2-3 years. We have a clear course laid out for us now.  We finally have a new, lower standard that will prompt a new, more aggressive clean air plan in DFW, with more of the area's counties included in it. That's not a bad thing. 

 

"Imaginary SIPs' For $200 Alex." "What the TCEQ DFW Clean Air Plan Looks Like After the Last Four Days"

Monday, August 29, 2011

Since Thursday, this is what's happened to the DFW air shed:

There have been 32 violations of the old 85 ppb federal ozone standard at 14 of the 20 DFW air monitors.

There have been 31 new season-highs ozone readings set at 19 of those 20 monitors.

There have been three 8-hour episodes averaging 100+ ppb of ozone. 

2 more monitors officially violated the Clean Air Act standard by adding 4th highest readings of 85 ppb or more. Now there's a total of 6, the most since 2006. 

The region's official "Design Value" rose three times in four days – from 90 to to 92 to 95 ppp. That's the highest it's been since 2006.  Last year it was 86 ppb. 

And that means that next year the ozone Design Value for DFW would have to be 71 ppb or lower for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's currently proposed clean air "plan" for DFW to not fail. Basically, we'd all have to evacuate for the summer. 

This is the math: 86 (2010's DV) + 95 (2011's DV – w/ one month to go) + 71 (what DFW needs in 2012) = 252 divided by 3 = 84 ppb. 

Nothing over 84 as a three-year running average will do. That's the formula in the Clean Air Act.  

There is no example of the DFW ozone pollution Design Value falling by 24 ppb in one year, or even over the 15 years the government's been keeping track. And there's nothing the TCEQ is doing in the next 12 months to change that. No new regulations, no new controls proposed for polluters. Just hoping that people buy new cars with those dreadful, oppressive EPA catalytic convertors in them.  They say that hope isn't a plan, but the state is really trying hard to prove otherwise. 

The TCEQ isn't even going to turn in its "plan" until December or January. It's still a proposed "plan," even though it's hopelessly, ridiculously obsolete after this weekend's attack of the Smog Monster. It's not just silly to continue to waste resources and tax dollars on something that has no chance of succeeding, it's insulting.  The sensible thing to do would be to take the hit of being classified as a "severe" non-attainment area for ozone and begin anew the task of writing a clean air plan that's actually, you know, a plan, with new ideas, implementing new technologies, and a chance at actually delivering something closer to safe and legal air for 6 million people. 

But that strategy does have the disadvantage of requiring sensible people heading up the TCEQ. And since it's TCEQ's inanity and planned incompetence that brought us to the point of looking helplessly on as whatever air quality progress that was made in DFW over the last five or six years is wiped out, we wouldn't count on TCEQ applying logic to the situation any time soon. 

 

Crash and Burn: Smogust is Mocking TCEQ Air Plan

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Another late August day, another rise in DFW's smog "Design Value," another monitor breaking the law. 

Friday wasn't as bad as Thursday, but it was bad enough. Keller's air monitor recorded a new season-high benchmark "Design Value" of 92 parts per billion. Two days ago it was 90. As of today, Keller's smog level is exactly what it was in 2004 – before the last clean air plan was implemented. 

Also on Friday, the "Dallas North" monitor became the 6th one to officially violate the Clean Air Act this summer. Last year there were two. You have to go back to 2006 to find so many DFW monitors in violation. 

Seven monitors saw their season-high ozone readings set yesterday, although only three of these were above the old federal standard of 85 ppb.

Dallas North              98 ppb
Frisco                        92 ppb
Dallas Hinton             88 ppb
Greenville                  83 ppb
Kaufman                    76 ppb
Dallas Exec. Airport   78 ppb 
Italy                            67 ppb

Another four had what are now routine "exceedences" of the 85 ppb standard. 

Keller            97 ppb
Grapevine     91 ppb
Denton          87 ppb
Pilot Point     86 ppb

In all, there were seven eight-hour averages over the 85 ppb standard. No eight-hour averages over 100 ppb, but there were plenty of sites where hourly 100 and above readings were common from 2 pm to 6 pm.

14 out of 20 monitors have seen their season highs set the last two days. Two more monitors violated the Clean Air Act in that same 48 hour period, and the Design Value has gone up 2 ppb. 

We checked, and according to those whiz-bang computer models the state uses in its proposed DFW air plan, the TCEQ- predicted Design Value for Keller next year is supposed to be 76 ppb – some 17 ppb lower than it is as of today. There's never been a drop like that in the history of monitoring these things, going back to 1997.

And the so far 6 ppb rise in the Design Value this year means TCEQ must rely on more and more ridiculous scenarios to justify submitting its clean air plan to EPA that predicts everything will be hunky-dory in just 13 months.

Federal law says you have to have a three-year running average of Design Values that totals no more than 84 ppb in order for the DFW plan to succeed. Let's review then. Last year's Design Value was 86 ppb (we mistakenly listed it as 85 yesterday). This year's will be at least 92 ppb. And that means the TCEQ needs that 76 ppb maximum reading next summer that its predicting for Keller for its plan to work. Without it, the three-year average exceeds 84 and the plan is finally, officially, completely, utterly dead. 

That is, for the currently-proposed TCEQ DFW air plan to work with the numbers we have today, there can't be a monitor in DFW that will register a fourth-highest reading higher than 76 ppb in 2012. As of today, 10 sites do.

TCEQ's plan is failing by larger margins with each passing orange alert. 
 

DFW's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Smog Day

Friday, August 26, 2011

Yesterday was the single worst day for ozone pollution in DFW this year. How bad was it?

Over a third of DFW's air monitors – 8 of 21 – had their ozone season highs for eight-hour readings set by yesterday's smog. Six of those were "exceedences" of the old 8-hour 85 ppb federal ozone standard. You know, the one we're supposed to be meeting by now.

Denton            102 ppb
Keller              100 ppb
Grapevine         98 ppb
Pilot Point          91ppb
Dallas North      90 ppb
Parker County   85 ppb
Eagle Mnt Lake 84 ppb
FW NW              82 ppb

There haven't been two 8-hour averages of 100 ppb or more in DFW since 2007. In all, eight DFW monitors accumulated 23 hours of smog readings that were 100 ppb or above. The day's single highest hourly reading was 115 ppb in Keller.

Grapevine's monitor became the fifth one in DFW to officially violate the Clean Air Act by registering its fourth reading over 85 ppb. There haven't been as many DFW monitors in violation of the Clean Air Act since 2006 – before the last clean air plan kicked-in. 

Pilot Point's high reading sent the entire DFW "Design Value" for ozone pollution (the highest reading among all fourth highest readings) up another notch, from 90 to 91 ppb. Last year it was 85 ppb. We're only one very bad air day in Denton away from seeing it jump to 95 ppb. From the looks of the forecast, today could be that day. 

Please keep in mind that George W. Bush's EPA scientists said an ozone standard protective of public health would be set somewhere in the 60 to 70 ppb range.

And take note that the computer modeling underlying the state's currently-proposed "clean air plan" for DFWpredicts our Design Value will be no higher than 85 ppb this year. 

Remember a couple of weeks ago when the Dallas Morning News published an article saying ozone wasn't really that bad this summer?

And remember when Joe Barton said the other night at his town hall meeting that air quality in DFW was getting better?

They're wrong. This is the worse ozone season in four to five years. Air quality is not improving, it's declining.

This isn't just an unfortunate turn of events, or lousy luck. This was a predictable outcome of policies pursued by the state, including submitting a clean air plan that consists entirely of hoping people buy new cars, and letting gas industry pollution go unregulated. 

 

 

Designed to Fail: The State Writes Clean Air Plans It Knows Won't Work

Friday, August 12, 2011

 

When does a government environmental agency forfeit its claim on being worthy of the title? 

When it's unresponsive to citizen complaints? 

When it writes rules that blatantly favor polluters at the expense of citizens? 

How about when it begins writing required federal air clean air plans that it knows will never actually result in cleaner air? 

That's what happened this year in DFW, when both our "non-attainment" areas – for smog and now lead contamination  – were the subject of what the Clean Air Act calls "State Implementation Plans." These plans are assigned to the state agencies to write, but must be submitted to EPA for approval. 

In DFW, our chronic smog problem over the last 20-30 years has required many of these plans from what is now called the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the last of which was 2006-2007. That was aimed at trying to get us down below the obsolete 1997 federal standard of 85 ppb of ozone or smog. It had rules for reducing cement kiln pollution for the first time, along with several other initiatives  Although ozone levels came down, we didn't get below 85 ppb. Under federal law, an area has to keep submitting plans until you reduce pollution enough to meet the standard you're aiming for. 

So a new plan was required by the EPA. One that's designed to meet the 85 ppb standard by the end of the 2012 smog season – NEXT YEAR. That's the one recently proposed by the TCEQ after the last public hearing in early mid-July. Final comments were due on August 8th. But this plan is unlike any other in history because it does nothing but sit back and watch people buy new cars. 

That's right. The state's entire plan for getting us down to a level of smog that's now considered "unprotective of human health" by the George W. Bush EPA is letting the market do its thing and allow folks to replace their older, more polluting cars with newer, less polluting ones. Should that new car buying not proceed at the pace the TCEQ computer modeling requires, DFW will have failed twice in the last six years to reach a 14-year-old standard for air quality. 

But there's overwhelming circumstantial evidence that TCEQ never really intended DFW to meet that goal. Indeed, from the evidence it appears that wasn't the primary goal of this smog plan at all. It's real goal was not to impose any new rules and regulations that industry might find bothersome while waiting for the Obama Administration to announce a new ozone standard that would necessitate a new, more elaborate air plan for DFW that could then be used to achieve both goals….eventually, and after Rick Perry was finished running for President. 

Because the new DFW air plan was written by TCEQ not to achieve the 85 ppb standard, but to allow Perry to avoid making any potential business donors mad at him over new air quality controls mandated by a more aggressive plan. How do we know this? Because the "do-nothing" plan that TCEQ has yet to officially submit to EPA has been so effective at doing nothing about cleaner air that it's already failed. 

A running average is kept by EPA of DFW's last three summer high ozone readings to determine whether we're in compliance with the ozone standard or not. As of right now, that three year running average stands at 88ppb, thanks to the smoggiest summer in DFW since 2007. We have until only the end of next summer to bring that down to 84ppb or this proposed TCEQ plan officially fails. Our high ozone reading for next summer would have to be only 77 ppb to reach that goal. We've never gone below 85. 

Even before they submit this plan, it's already DOA and the state knows it. So does the EPA. In comments submitted on August 8th, EPA Region 6 Air Planning Chief Guy Donaldson concluded that:

"The State has noted that, based on a technical demonstration including modeling and other evidence that the Dallas Fort Worth areas will attain the 1997 ozone standard by the end of the 2012 ozone season. Based on the current monitoring data and the limited reductions that will happen between now in 2012, however, it seems unlikely that the area will attain."

This current failed plan is just a placeholder. The state is waiting for the EPA to announce a new federal ozone standard this summer that DFW will also not be able to meet and use that extended timeline for a SIP to kick the DFW smog can down the road. Meanwhile, DFW residents continue to pay for Governor Perry’s political ambitions with their health.

Everyone knows the TCEQ's smog plan won't work, but because the TCEQ can show, on paper, at least, that it's computer modeling predicts that it will, this strange Kabuki theater of submitting a proposal that's already failed is allowed to continue to its bitter end. 

In Frisco however, the state did away with any pretense of appearances and didn't even bother with a decent computer model, or much of anything else by the looks of the EPA comments on that clean air plan. 

The land in and around the Exide lead-battery smelter is violating the lead air concentration standards of the Clean Air Act and caused the city to host the region's second "non-attainment" area. Consequently, the state also had to draft a plan to clean up that mess. It didn't do a very good job. In fact, it looks like it went out of its way to do a really bad one. On the same day he was telling TCEQ that ts DFW smog plan probably wouldn't work, EPA's Donaldson was also telling the Commission that since it had ignored routine guidance on how to perform modeling, the Frisco plan was "unapprovable." 

It's not that EPA never rejects plans from state government. It does. It's the reasons the EPA gave this time, on paper, for its rejection that make the Frisco case just a great example of your tax dollars at work. Despite the EPA specifically telling TCEQ what it needed to perform the analysis, the TCEQ refuses to do it. The frustration comes through despite the formalized style employed by EPA in writing such comments:

"The modeling analyses (Base Case and Future Case), in many cases, do not follow EPA regulations and guidelines for attainment demonstration SIP modeling. TCEQ did not follow the provisions of 40 CFR 5l.lI2 and 40 CFR Part 51 Appendix W, Guideline on Air Quality Models (GAQM). In particular,TCEQ did not conduct modeling in accordance with a modeling protocol agreed to between EPA and TCEQ. Despite EPA's requests for a protocol prior to TCEQ conducting the modeling for the attainment demonstration SIP, no protocol was shared with EPA prior to TCEQ finalizing the modeling included in the proposal. EPA did have a number of conference calls with TCEQ and provided guidance on modeling for this proposal, but TCEQ did not follow many of EPA's recommendations to meet the requirements of 40 CFR5I.II2 and 40 CFR Part 51 Appendix W, GAQM."

The level of non-cooperation is so extensive, so fundamental that one can only conclude that the TCEQ intentionally sabotaged its own plan. Never disturb business if you can avoid it, even when its a lead smelter in the middle of America's fastest growing city. 

In effect, the Perry Administration has adopted the tactics of non-cooperation" that the Deep South state governments adopted during the 1950s and 60s to fight enforcement of federal civil rights laws and applied them to fighting the enforcement of federal environmental laws. Just like George Wallace and his ilk didn't believe in the goals of integration, so Rick Perry and his TCEQ don't believe smog and lead are bad for you. They reject the entire premise of the laws they are charged with enforcing. But instead of standing in the Exide corporate doorway keeping the EPA out, Perry and the TCEQ have just decided not to perform its responsibilities as the state's environmental agency. They're writing air plans that are designed to fail. 
 

Compare and Contrast

Monday, August 08, 2011

This is thearticle the Dallas Morning News printed today on 2011 ozone levels. You should read it. 

Then, if you haven't already, you should read the post directly below this one. 

Now, decide if the DMN wrote their piece specifically to try to rebut our post, or is it independently that shallow in how it looks at the data from this year? 

No mention of the one or two air plans that have been implemented between the first part of last decade and now. Or the big difference in pre-2007 numbers vs after-2007 numbers. 

No mention of the flat line that has been our ozone levels in DFW since around 2007, or the roll back this year's numbers represents. Or mention that air pollution from new gas sources over the last five years is actually making planned progress impossible.

No mention of the fact that this year's Design Value is the highest since 2009, and we have more monitors out of compliance than at anytime since 2007. 

No mention of what part, if any, the economic slowdown is responsible for the difference between the early oughts and now. 

No mention of the phenomena of excessive heat actually leading to less ozone because of the lack of atmospheric mix, something discussed in our comments section. 

No mention of the fact that the proposed TCEQ do-over air plan aimed at the old 85 ppb standard is already obsolete itself because of the severity of this summer's ozone numbers. 

This summer is not following the script the TCEQ had already written in their air plan, but you wouldn't know it from reading the News

They've got their rose-colored glasses on. 

 

SMOGUST- Updated

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Sunscreen? Check. Hydration? Check. Oxygen tank? 
Check.

Monday it was the Frisco monitor with a violation of the 1997 eight-hour ozone standard we're still trying to meet in 2011. Tuesday it was Denton. Today…..by 11 am Rockwall shot up to 99 ppb which isn't a good sign at all. Look for one or more monitors to trip again by the time the sun sets. You can keep track of your own deteriorating air quality here.

Update:
And so Wednesday's final tally produced the single worst bad air day in DFW this summer,as well as the worst ozone season in five years. Six monitors exceeded the 1997 8-hour, 85 ppb federal standard that the current TCEQ clean air plan is supposed to meet: Frisco, Denton, Dallas North, Rockwall, Grapevine, and Pilot Point. Five of those monitors recorded  their highest readings for this summer. Combined with Tuesday's violation in Pilot Point (which we missed), today's smog levels make that monitor the fourth one in DFW now totally out of compliance with the 85 standard.  And folks, we haven't had four monitors out of compliance with the 1997 standard since 2007.

 

Study Links Electromagnetic Fields to Asthma

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

A new study suggests that pregnant women with the highest levels of exposure to magnetic fields are more likely to have a child who develops asthma, compared to pregnant women with low exposure levels. 

And Then There Were Three: Frisco Third Monitor to Violate 85 ppb Ozone Standard This Summer

Monday, August 01, 2011

Yesterday was a bad air day in North Texas despite the official TCEQ ozone forecast of "no problem-o." 

Smog monitors in Keller and Denton had already recorded their fourth reading over 85 parts per billion (ppb), with Keller providing this year's benchmark high of 90 ppb. On Monday, the wind blew NE and it was Frisco's turn, resulting in a 1997 standard-busting eight-hour average of 86 ppb. 

That makes three DFW monitors out of compliance with the federal ozone standard we're supposed to be meeting by now. That's the most since 2009, when we also had ozone readings in the 90 ppb range. 

We have one more summer to reach a three year running average of under 85 ppb, or the current TCEQ strategy officially fails. We'd have to have a lot of rain or favorable circumstances next summer to be able to avoid that fate. Or, you know, a really good clean air plan. The outlook for either is dim. 

Warning: Air Quality Problems May Appear Smaller Than They Actually Are

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Turns out that TCEQ is color-blind as well. 

Some of you may subscribe to the Commission's  DFW ozone alert e-mail list. 

You may think those "Orange Alerts" you've been getting every so often since Spring are an indication of what days represent breathing health threats. You would be wrong.

When you get an orange alert, it means one or more monitors in DFW is registering an ozone level of between 75 and 96 parts per billion (ppb). This level of smog pollution is officially classified by TCEQ as air "unhealthy for sensitive groups." You actually have to have a smog problem above 95 ppb to just be plain "unhealthy" air at TCEQ.

But TCEQ's entire alert system is based on an out-dated understanding of what levels of smog do damage to public health. 

Three years ago, the Bush Administration EPA recommended a new federal ozone level of between 60 and 70 ppb concluding that the old 85 ppb standard was no longer protective of public health. So when TCEQ is telling you the air outside represents only a threat to "sensitive groups," it's really a danger to all of us. And that danger goes down to 70 or even 60 ppb.

NPR had a report on the new standard and the antiquity of similar "air quality alerts" across the country.

The difference in the number of days that there are "unhealthy" levels of smog in DFW is significant depending on where you're starting point is.

Since April, there have been 12 "orange" days in DFW according to the TCEQ database on line here (75 to 95 ppb at one or more monitors). During that same time there were 32 "yellow days" (60 to 74 ppb at one or more monitors) including nine that saw levels at 70 to 74 ppb. 

So instead of 12 days of air this summer that have been "unhealthy for sensitive groups," there have actually been 44 days of air that would be considered potentially unhealthy for everyone by EPA scientists. The problem of bad air grows almost 400%. 

When things are orange at TCEQ, they should really be red. At least, you know, according to the scientists who study this stuff for a living. 

However out of whack this system is regarding public health and current science, it's in perfect alignment with the TCEQ's and Governor Perry's ideological view that smog isn't much of threat to human health. For years, the agency has argued that ozone is a "benign pollutant" and doesn't deserve all the regulatory attention it's gotten from EPA. 

Let's all watch and see how long it takes for TCEQ to adapt its color-coded ozone alert system to the reality of a new EPA ozone standard scheduled to be announced in early August now. Office pool starts now. Here are the odds as of today:

Change when EPA proposed new standard is announced –  1000 to 1 Against
Change when EPA adopts final rules – 100 to 1 Against 
Change when EPA requires new DFW clean air plan for the new std. – 50 to 1 Against
Change when Rick Perry leaves office – 2 to 1 For  

Roll the Tape: Scenes from the Perry Bean Cook-Off and TCEQ Smog Hearing

Monday, July 18, 2011

Thanks to an entity named Jimzshow over at YouTube, you can see video highlights of last Thursday's Rick Perry Bean Cook-Off and TCEQ Smog Hearing, including:

The Calvin and Tim Show before the hearing.

Downwinders' own Jim Schermbeck making the case that the plan has already failed, even before it's finalized. 

Arlington Environmental Institution Julia Bergendoing the Talking Smog History Blues.

Arlington resident, gas activist and Ben Zine friend Kim Feil.

St. Jo Resident Joe Dial's letter to Governor Perry and the TCEQ Commissioners.

Texas Campaign for the Environment's Jeff Jacoby, complete with Rick Perry Mask prop. 

..and more. Check it out. 
 

Did You Know the Tea Party Targeted Us Yesterday? Neither Did We

Friday, July 15, 2011

But according to this website info, the NW Tarrant Tea Party Folks were asked to come over and counter the "misinformation" about gas drilling by the astroturf group CLEAN Resources (Citizens for Lasting Energy and Affordable Natural) Resources. This accounts for at least two or three of the 10 am hearing speakers and maybe one at the evening session. Pretty weak tea actually. 
 

"New Report Reveals Toxic Air Near Natural Gas Operations"

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

As Sharon says, however, this refers to Colorado and New Mexico, and not Ft. Worth, which missed its own deadline to release its massive study of gas air pollution Wednesday in favor of a roll-out Thursday Noon. When it does go up, it should be accessible by way of this website. 

The Colo. and NM study contains sampling done by citizens groups at various sites which found:

"…a total of 22 toxic chemicals in the air samples, including four known carcinogens, as well as toxins known to damage the nervous system and respiratory irritants. The chemicals detected ranged from 3 to 3,000 times higher than what is considered safe by state and federal agencies. Sampling was conducted in the San Juan Basin area of Colorado and New Mexico, as well as Garfield 

County in western Colorado." 

As you might have guessed by now, the toxins they found were Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) like the ones that the TCEQ decided not to reduce in the proposed smog plan up for a public hearing Thursday night. Yet another reason to come and tell the state it must do more to clean the air, including reducing gas industry VOCs, which are the largest single source of the pollution in the 9-county "non-attainment" area for smog pollution.

 

Even as DFW fails to meet 1997 Ozone Standard, EPA is Set to Establish a New One

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Here's a report form the New York Times indicating that EPA just forwarded the twice-delayed new ozone standard to the Office of Management and Budget for review. That means a 30-day clock is ticking to release them publicly. We kust sent out a News Plume quoting previous estimates for a late July announcement, but now it looks like it will be early August beofre we know how low we have to go to breathe safe air. 

DFW continues to be in violation of the Clinton-era ozone standard of 85 ppb. That standard was declared unsafe by the Bush Administration, who lowered the federal ozone standard to 75ppb, despite EPA's own scientists saying it needed to be set at between 60 and 70 ppb to be protective. 

Now, the Obama Administration is seeking to endorse the Bush EPA scientists' recommendation and lower it from 75 ppb to 70ppb or below. 

Already, you've heard the local Powers-That-Be moan and groan about how impossible it will be for DFW to meet this new standard. But our inability to obtain safe air for citizens in North Texas has nothing to do with EPA, and everything to do with a total lack of leadership on the issue from Austin and top officials here in DFW. 

TCEQ is still fiddling around with meeting a 14-year old standard and has proposed a "plan" that will not achieve even this modest goal. A new federal ozone number is one more reason to come out Thursday night to Arlington and tell TCEQ it needs to do more, much, much more. 

 

Happy Clean Air Action Day! DFW's Air Quality Just Got Officially Worse

Friday, July 08, 2011

Yesterday, the Keller ozone monitor recorded an 8-hour average of 90ppb. It became the monitor's fourth-highest reading for the summer, and thus, its "design value" in TCEQ jargon – the reading that sticks and becomes the measuring stick for progress toward getting below the 1997 federal standard of 85 ppb. And we're not doing so well right now. 

Keller's design value on Tuesday was in the high 70's. On Wednesday it was 85ppb. On Thursday it was 90ppb. It's been a good week for bad air in DFW.

As fate would have it, this new and bad design value, (the first in the 90's range since 2009), occurred on "Clean Air Action Day," the official local government and business-sponsored effort to encourage car pooling, biking and such during ozone season (raising hell with local governments and businesses to clean the air never seems to make their list). Despite "companies doing their share for cleaner air" DFW busted the 85ppb standard sooner than we have in years. 

Seems like only yesterday officialdom was declaring that "July isn't a traditional high ozone month." Someone forgot to tell July. 

A higher design value for 2011 makes it less likely that even a good showing in 2012 can save us from the three year average over 85ppb that will signal the failure of the TCEQ "do-over" SIP and the need for a third try. 

2010's design value was 85ppb. Even if 2012 saw a design value of 84ppb – something that has never happened – this year's 90 ppb gives you a three-year average of 86.3. That's just about back where we started when this air plan process began, and still in "non-attainment" with the Clean Air Act. We're not "really close" to getting below 85ppb anymore, we getting further away. 

The TCEQ isn't predicting a high ozone day for Friday, despite a weather forecast containing many of the elements that would make it one. We could use a breather. 

Update: 
Oops. TCEQ is now predicting a high ozone day today. So take an oxygen tank with you when you go out and hope the design value doesn't go up to 95ppb. 

Remember to come eat your beans in Arlington Thursday night beginning at 5:45 pm at City Hall. 
 

Is This the Day DFW Fails the 85 ppb Ozone Standard…Again? Yes it Was.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Yesterday, Keller recorded a 90ppb ozone reading, a violation of the 1997 85 ppb federal standard. That makes the July 5th high of 85 ppb recorded at Keller the fourth highest number for that site this year, and thus, Keller becomes the first DFW ozone monitoring site to record the 2011 official failure to reach the old standard. And there you have it, a nicely-wrapped present for the business-sponsored Clean Air Action Day! that occurring even as we speak today. 
 

2 More Ozone Violations Wednesday – 2 More and It's Another Failed Year

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

DFW saw two more ozone violations occur on Wednesday, both at sites that had already tripped once in June. That means that the area has two monitoring sites that arealready halfway to the four violations that would render 2011 another official clean air failure. All it takes are four separate eight-hour violations of the ozone standard at any one site for EPA to declare DFW in continuing non-attainment of the old 1997 85 ppb ozone/smog standard. 
 

Reducing Smog and Soot Helps Slow Global Warming

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"SHARPLY reducing emissions of soot and smog could play a critical role in preventing Earth from overheating, according to a UN report. Curbing these pollutants could also boost global food output and save millions of lives lost to heart and lung disease, said the report from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO)."
 

"Queremos Aire Limpio:" Latino Groups Urge Most Protective New Ozone Standard

Thursday, June 09, 2011

With a new federal ozone standard still expected to be announced next month, The LA Times has a story on the 14 Hispanic/Latino groups that sent a letter to the White House yesterday asking President Obama to set that standard at the most protective level of 60 parts per billion. 
 

2011's First Violations of the 1997 Ozone Standard/updated

Monday, June 06, 2011

..occurred at Grapevine (91 ppb) and Denton Airport(95ppb) today. They won't be the last. Read about how they happened in detail here.

 

Level Orange Warnings on Eve of TCEQ Air Plan Vote – Updated/final

Monday, June 06, 2011

At 1:15 pm today, the TCEQ issued a "LEVEL ORANGE" warning for the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. Ozone air pollution levels are rated as UNHEALTHY FOR SENSITIVE GROUPS based on measurements at the following monitoring site(s)*: 
 

Link Between Global Warming and Smog

Friday, June 03, 2011

The Union of Concerned Scientists provides thefirst evidence of why air quality planning for ozone violations (like DFW) should also be paying attention to climate change,
 

Jobs, Growth, and lots of sick kids

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Environmental Illness in U.S. Kids Cost $76.6 Billion in One Year   
 

But don't worry, air quality is getting better!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Asthma Rate Rises Sharply in U.S., Government Says

 

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: