RECENT AND UPCOMING
► A July 2012 study from the Houston Research Center concludes that gas industry air pollution causes "significant" increases in ozone pollution in DFW.
► Downwinders at Risk is a member of the Dallas Residents at Risk alliance. Please visit their website. Weekly strategy meetings are held every Tuesday evening beginning at 6 pm at the offices of the Texas Campaign for the Environment, 3303 Lee Parkway, Suite 402 in Dallas in Central Dallas, right across from Lee Park.
► Dallas residents who want a more protective gas drilling ordinance are still needed to sign-up and speak for 3 minutes during the morning and afternoon public comment period allowed to everyone once a month at Dallas City Council meetings. Please call the Dallas City Secretary's office at 9:00 am on the Thursday before the Wednesday Council meeting you'd like to speak at:(214) 670-3738
A major reason for the lack of recent progress in improving DFW air quality is the inability of government or industry to rein-in the huge volumes of air pollution from a growing North Texas oil and gas industry.
According to state pollution estimates submitted to the EPA, gas industry emissions account for more emissions of smog-forming “Volatile Organic Compounds” (VOCs) than all the cars and trucks in the region combined. Even industry self-surveys show amounts of VOCs from North Texas natural gas facilities equaling all other regional stationary industrial sources like cement and utility plants combined. Most of this gas industry pollution is unregulated for its impact on North Texas ozone levels.
In addition to adding to DFW’s chronic smog problem, air pollution from gas industry sources can also be toxic, including carcinogens like Benzene and Formaldehyde. In 2010, a study by the Houston Advanced Research Center revealed that levels of cancer-causing formaldehyde in North Texas air are more than double that of the Houston Ship Channel and that TCEQ monitoring of it was " too sporadic and inaccurate" to do much good. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's own tests in the Barnett Shale have shown "some of the highest benzene concentrations TCEQ has monitored in the state."
VOC poisons are believed to be behind many of the reported acute health problems associated with the neighbors of gas industry facilities, including respiratory illness, nosebleeds, headaches, rashes, nausea and neurological problems. In March 2012, a Colorado School of Public Health study concluded residents living within a half mile of a gas well were exposed to high levels of at least five different toxic pollutants and suffered a 66% higher risk of getting cancer.
Gas and oil sources are also major sources of methane, another kind of VOC, and one of the worst Greenhouse Gas pollutants.
Despite the public health impact of gas industry air pollution on North Texas residents, there is still no region-wide strategy to significantly reduce it. Instead a patchwork of federal, state and local ordinances govern different sources in different ways according to where the facility is located, its volumes of estimated pollution, or what it does.
Downwinders is trying to prompt local governments, institutions, and individuals in North Texas to act in self-defense and demand a systematic clean-up of gas industry air pollution in North Texas. We call this effort the Fair Share for Clean Air Campaign.
DFW has been in violation of the Clean Air Act for smog pollution for over 20 years. During that time every major industrial source of smog-forming pollution in North Texas has had to add controls, find new ingredients, or change production methods to reduce their emissions. Every major industry except the Natural Gas industry. They've been exempt from traditional "off-set" requirements that say any new pollution created must be offset by paying for pollution reductions in the same area. As the Gas Industry's share of total air pollution continues to grow, its smog-forming emissions must be held accountable to the same requirements as other regional polluters.
Off-set requirements act as incentives for a polluter to voluntarily reduce their air pollution as much as possible. They also help make sure air pollution doesn't get any worse.
Using off-the-shelf technology available right now, gas industry emissions could be reduced by 90% or more. Moreover, reducing this kind of pollution actually makes the gas industry money because most of the pollution controls that would be used capture profitable product that's now literally evaporating into thin air. Think about the vapor recovery system at your local gas station and you get a good idea of how these controls work.
In 2011, Down winders commissioned a report by Dr. Melanie Sattler of The University of Texas at Arlington to estimate the amount of money saved by gas operators by implementing existing pollution controls. “Leaking Money: Potential Revenues from Reduction of Natural Gas and Condensate Emissions in North Central Texas” concluded over $50 million in lost product could be captured and sold.
In our effort to include more gas industry pollution cuts in the 2011 DFW clean air plan, Downwinders won the support of seven DFW city and county governments representing three and a half million residents, as well as both daily newspapers.
Because of this public support, the state did set new standards for allowable gas emissions in a DFW clean air plan for the first time, albeit insufficiently. Downwinders is still working for more.
We’re also helping Dallas residents in rewriting that city’s gas drilling ordinance, including advocating the first local off-setting of gas industry air pollution.
Until a final Dallas ordinance is passed we’re meeting with other groups and individuals as part of the Dallas Residents at Risk alliance, every Tuesday at 7pm at the Texas Campaign for the Environment Office, 3303 Lee Parkway, Suite 402 in Dallas in Central Dallas, right across from Lee Park.
For a more complete inventory on the problems of fracking in North Texas and elsewhere, visit Sharon Wilson's BlueDaze blog.